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The Hindu Editorial

2-November-2023

1. Impacting a woman’s freedom to reproductive choices.

Topic: GS3 – woman health

Background and Case Overview

  • On October 16, the Supreme Court of India ruled in a case known as “X vs Union of India.”
  • The case involved a woman seeking permission to terminate a 26-week-long pregnancy.
  • The Court, presided over by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, concluded that the woman’s case fell outside the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

MTP Act and Pregnancy Termination

  • The MTP Act permits termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks in specific cases, such as substantial foetal abnormalities or threats to the woman’s life.

Viable Foetus and Women’s Rights

  • The judgment emphasizes that when a foetus becomes viable, capable of surviving outside the mother’s uterus, a woman’s right to choose abortion is extinguished.
  • The ruling raises questions about the moral and legal status of a foetus, as well as its constitutional rights.

Failure to Address Key Questions

  • The Court did not engage with central questions:
  • Whether a foetus has autonomous moral status.
  • Whether it has legal standing.
  • Whether it can exercise constitutional rights.
  • This places the foetus’s rights above those of a pregnant woman to her privacy and dignity.

Enabling Legislation and Fundamental Rights

  • The judgment fails to assess whether the MTP Act is an enabling legislation or a conferral of rights in itself.
  • If the right to make reproductive choices is fundamental, the Court could issue directions beyond the MTP Act’s provisions to protect this right.

Case Details

  • The petitioner was a 27-year-old woman who wanted her pregnancy terminated due to post-partum depression and financial constraints.
  • Initially, a medical board ruled in her favor, but the Union government raised concerns about the viable foetus.
  • The case led to an impasse between two judges and the constitution of a new Bench presided over by the CJI.
  • The new medical board confirmed the viability of the foetus and the absence of abnormalities, leading to the Court’s decision to recall its earlier order.

Conflict with Privacy and Dignity Rights

  • The verdict conflicts with the Court’s previous jurisprudence on fundamental rights to privacy and dignity.
  • The right to privacy allows individuals, especially women, to make reproductive choices without undue interference.

Foetuses and Constitutional Rights

  • The judgment implies that foetuses have constitutional rights, contrary to previous abortion jurisprudence.
  • The Constitution does not grant personhood to foetuses, and the MTP Act acknowledges this by creating exceptions in cases of immediate threats to a woman’s life.
  • The foetus is seen as dependent on the mother within the constitutional structure.

Impact on Women’s Freedom

  • The ruling has the potential to undermine women’s freedom to make reproductive choices, which is intrinsic to Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

2. AI and the issue of human-centricity in copyright law

Topic: GS3 – artificial intelligence

Ownership and enforcement of copyright in AI-generated works

United States:

  • Copyright law requires human authorship for copyright protection.
  • A recent court decision in Stephen Thaler vs Shira Perlmutter affirmed the Copyright Office’s position that works created autonomously by AI systems are not copyrightable.
  • The Copyright Office has issued guidance on disclosing AI-generated content in copyright applications and initiated a public consultation on AI-related copyright issues.

India:

  • In 2020,the Indian Copyright Office registered a work of art called “Suryast” with an AI system listed as a co-author.
  • The office later sent a notice to the human co-author declaring its intent to withdraw the registration,but the work remains registered.
  • The Copyright Office has not yet articulated mandatory disclosure requirements on the use of AI or initiated broader consultations on this issue.
  • The 161st Report of the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has recommended reviewing the Copyright Act 1957 to incorporate emerging technologies such as AI.
  • Some of the report’s recommendations appear to aim to relax the standards for securing copyright protection,but these recommendations do not appear to be informed by any study of IP-related challenges and needs of the AI innovation ecosystem in India.

Policy considerations

  • Economic arguments:Traditional economic arguments for copyright protection, such as the need to incentivise authors and inventors, do not hold with the autonomous creative output of AI systems.
  • Human-centricity of copyright law:Copyright law should be cautious about diluting the human-centricity of copyright law.

Conclusion

Policymakers and courts in India need to take a cautious approach to IP rights in AI-generated works.

3. Blueprint to develop India by 2047 must factor in critical governance reforms.

Topic: GS3 – governance

Vision India@2047 Plan

  • Expected to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early 2024.
  • Aims to transform India into a developed nation with a $30 trillion economy by the time it completes 100 years of Independence.
  • Under development for nearly two years with inputs from various ministries.

Stakeholder Consultation

  • NITI Aayog is giving the vision document its final shape.
  • Seeking input from top minds across sectors, including World Bank President Ajay Banga, Apple chief Tim Cook, Indian industrialists, and thought leaders.
  • Aims to finetune ideas and goals and address potential blind spots.

Election Implications

  • The plan, expected to be unveiled ahead of the Lok Sabha election, may serve as a government policy promise to voters.
  • Regardless of electoral outcomes, future governments should maintain an earnest outlook toward the agenda.

Historical Economic Growth

  • India’s economic growth has risen from 1.1% of global output in 1991 to 3.5% today.
  • Driven by governments of varying political ideologies sticking to reform and liberalization agendas.
  • However, reforms have faced challenges, especially in areas like land and labor markets.

Reform and Policy Certainty

  • The plan should address how to navigate challenging reforms and provide policy certainty for global investors.
  • Shifting the government’s role to that of an enabler rather than a micro-manager is crucial.
  • Recent decisions have shown a return to past habits, including production-linked incentives, import licensing, and aggressive taxation.

Economic Transformation and Income Inequality

  • The plan focuses on avoiding a middle-income trap and speeding up the structural shift from agriculture to industry.
  • Addressing income inequality is a key challenge.
  • The plan’s action points and outcomes are divided into two periods: 2030 and the 17-year period leading up to 2047.

Adaptive Planning

  • The plan should be revisited at intervals to adjust goals based on evolving global trends and unforeseen events.
  • Aiming for a 9% growth rate between 2030 and 2047 is commendable.
  • Preparing for alternative scenarios and adjusting course when necessary is advisable.

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