Citizens' Issues
Denial of L-1B visa applications highest for Indians: Study
Even as President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he would reform the L-1B visa regime that allows global companies to temporarily shift their workers to the US, a study released last week finds that Indians faced the maximum rejections under this category.
 
"The denial rate for L-1B petitions to transfer employees of Indian origin is a remarkable 56 percent for 2012 through 2014, compared to an average denial rate of 13 percent to transfer employees from all other countries during the period," says the study by a US think tank.
 
"Only 4 percent of Canadian nationals were denied L-1B petitions, compared to 56 percent of Indian nationals, between 2012 and 2014," says the study by the National Foundation for American Society, non-profit public policy research organization on trade and immigration issues.
 
Indian nationals, the study says, had filed the most number of petitions under the L-1B regime at 25,296 petitions, followed by Canadians with 10,692 petitions. The denial rate was 16 percent for for Britishers for 2,577 petitions, and 22 percent for Chinese for 1,570 petitions.
 
"The data reveal the problem with denials centers primarily on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services denying petitions for employees being transferred into the United States from India. The numbers are stark," says the study.
 
"Examining the top eight countries of origin for L-1B petitions reveals no other country had even half the denial rate of employees from India," it said, even as data also revealed that Indians secured approvals for 11,192 petitions. 
 
Nevertheless, President Obama declared Tuesday that "America is proudly open for business", while assuring that the L-1B visa category will be reformed to allow global corporations to temporarily move workers to the US in a faster, simpler way.
 
"This could benefit hundreds of thousands of non-immigrant workers and their employers. That, in turn, will benefit our entire economy and spur additional investment," he said during an address to the the second SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington.
 
"So the bottom line is this: America is proudly open for business, and we want to make it as simple and as attractive for you to set up shop here as is possible," said Obama. "That is what this summit is all about."
 
Reacting to the announcement, Nasscom president R. Chandrasekhar said the guidance on the reform of the l-1B regime was still not available, the statement of intent from Obama made it clear that he felt the move will strengthen investments into the US.
 
"We expect the guidance to be positive and a step in the right direction. But unless we see the actual guidance, which we expect around the end of this week, it will be diccicult to respond to any of the specifics," Chandrasekhar said in a TV interview.

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Capital ceiling to be raised to qualify as micro, small, medium firm
The government has decided to change the definition of what constitute small and medium enterprises, notably by raising the capital caps for qualification, in a bid to revive a sector that is India's second-largest employer, with a 40 percent share in exports.
 
A draft bill has already been prepared proposing such revisions, officials said, adding, the cap is proposed to be doubled to Rs.50 lakh for micro enterprises and Rs.10 crore for small-scale firms. For medium enterprises it is proposed at Rs.30 crore from Rs.10 crore, officials said.
 
"We have not produced global level players in providing services except in information technology and information technology enabled services," says the draft Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Bill, 2015, that also has a thrust on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' initiative.
 
"India can become a global exporter of services. But with the above exceptions, it has not done so," it added in its observation on the sector, whose story replicates that of manufacturing in India overall.
 
According to a senior official in the ministry, the aim of the proposed amendments not only to help revival the enterprises in this category, but also facilitate the exit of some distressed enterprises, aso that investments can be unlocked for more productive use.
 
"Micro, small and medium enterprises face a lot of insolvency and bankruptcy issues. They must be given legal aid for revival, the ministry official said. "We also need to limit their liabilities and improve the process involved in winding up with affordable mechanism," he told IANS.
 
Towards this end, while presenting the Prime Minister Modi government's first full budget for the next fiscal in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said that a new, comprehensive bankruptcy code on the lines prevailing in the US will make it easier for the exit from unviable ventures. 
 
"We will bring a comprehensive Bankruptcy Code in fiscal 2015-16, that will meet global standards and provide necessary judicial capacity," Jaitley had said -- a move that will replace the laws dealing with sick companies, and the one on industrial and financial reconstruction.
 
The senior official in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises said funding was also a major issue for the sector, since banks get wary after loans become distressed, while the high debt-to-equity ratio prevents them from taking further exposures.
 
Officials said the proposal for a Rs.5-000 crore India Opportunities Venture Fund under the Small Industries Development Bank will go a long way in pumping equity, even as the turnover limit for compulsory tax audit and presumptive taxation was being enhanced from Rs.60 lakh to Rs.1 crore.
 
Another area being looked at is listing on bourses. The platform for such companies allows does not mandate a compulsory initial public offer. But reflecting their problem with equity funding, there are only a little over 90 such firms listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
 
The micro, small and medium enterprises contribute 8 percent to the country's GDP, 40 percent of its total exports and around 45 percent of the manufacturing output, as per official data. There are 3.62 crore such firms of which 15.64 are registered. They employ 8.1 crore people.

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Supreme Court strikes down Section 66A of IT Act
In an historic decision, the Supreme Court struck down the 'draconian' Section 66A of the IT Act, thus guaranteeing citizens fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression 
 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act holding it violative of Article 19(1)a of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
 
Section 66A of the IT Act has been repeatedly abused by powerful politicians, political parties and their followers to silence critics and violate human rights through the abuse of the draconian power to arrest and jail those who speak their minds, especially on social media. 
 
Consumer review social media company Mouthshut.com had filed the petition before the apex court. The case was clubbed along with a petition filed by Shreya Singhal, a law student, challenging India's IT Act's section 66A. Because the hearing for 66A and the IT rules were clubbed together by a Supreme Court order, the matter is sometimes referred as Shreya Singhal cases
 
In a message, Faisal Farooqui, the Founder and Chief Executive of MouthShut.com, said, "....(the) Verdict in our favour. No content take down without Court order. No arrests for posting online. Current law unconstitutional. India is free and so is the internet. Thank you to all of you."
 
Section 66A provides the power to arrest a person for sending grossly offensive or menacing messages, or causing annoyance and inconvenience through electronic communication service. It prescribes a three-year jail term, if found guilty. The wording of the Section has been liberally misinterpreted to harass and intimidate people by arresting them.
 
While the Act has been repeatedly challenged, the Supreme Court, in 2013, diluted the power of arrest by ruling that no person can be arrested for social media posts without prior approval from an officer of the rank of an inspector general of police. This case, too, was in connection with comments posted on social media about a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) of Tamil Nadu.  
 
MouthShut.com approached the Supreme Court to nullify Information Technology Rules 2011, which are a part of the IT Act on April 2013. Writ petition was filed by MouthShut.com under Article 32 of the Constitution for quashing the IT Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 as it claimed are violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
 
According to the petition, the Rules impose a significant burden on the petitioners, forcing them to screen content and exercise on-line censorship. While a private party may allege that certain content is defamatory or infringes copyright, such determinations are usually made by judges and involve factual inquiry and careful balancing of competing interests and factors, which the petitioners are not equipped to make. The petitioners receive notices and phone calls from cyber cells and police stations asking them to delete content and provide information of users, which makes the running of their business difficult.
 
The examples of misuse of Section 66A by politicians are many. In 2012, two young girls were arrested and terrorised by a mob for a harmless Facebook post criticising the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. One of them had merely ‘liked’ the post.

The two girls were first booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 295A (hurting religious sentiments). When it was realised the Shiv Sena is not a religious group the girls section 295A was dropped and section 505(2) (promoting enmity or ill-will between classes) and section 66A were applied.
 
Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, had a Puducherry businessman arrested at night for some posts on Twitter. This case, too, had sparked outrage on social media. Section 66A has even been applied with other provisions of the Indian Penal Code for cases involving cyber-squatting and impersonation.
 
Few days ago, the Calcutta High Court penalised the West Bengal government and ordered action against police officials who had arrested professor Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University in 2012 for forwarding an email joke about Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal. The state has been ordered to pay Rs50,000 in compensation and another Rs50,000 in costs to the professor.

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COMMENTS

Divya & Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Unfortunately, in an adversarial system, there will always be losers. Most of them genuinely think they are in the right; but unfortunately, the law is NOT in their favour, for various reasons. The main one is delay.

Most people hate to visit a lawyer at the first sign of trouble. The one thought that comes to mind is the matter of cost. But being penny-wise may amount to being pound-foolish.

As for Mr. Warrier's comment, self regulation, more so self-restraint, is the need of the hour. One understands the build up of bile at being hurt, or mistreated. So, one attacks the keys. It's easy, fast and cheap. The audience is world-wide. It's a load off one's chest.

But then there are other signposts that one needs to heed. Libel, defamation, slander are still on the books. The rule of thumb, to avoid trouble are these three points of reference. 1) What you write must be true and you must be able to prove it. 2)It must carry to a wide audience,3)It must cause harm, either tangible or not, suggested or direct.

So, if you cannot prove what you say, on the internet, and the person harmed proves hurt; you have had it.

The internet was invented for transmission of data. That it is now a tool for attacks is unfortunate. Maybe not as unfortunate as the clampdown that fascist politicians want to put on it. Let us make sure that they do not get the chance. They won's till the judiciary is free.

MG Warrier

2 years ago

My personal view is that the Apex Court decision which is most welcome, will make people more responsible and groups sharing mails or 'information' will impose self-regulation to protect common/public interest. There are several punitive legislative provisions which are selectively 'used'. The judicial process itself is slow due to various constraints. While celebrating victories like this, we should not forget larger issues.

SuchindranathAiyerS

2 years ago

This means nothing. Forget the administration and police, even High Court and Supreme Court Judges do not heed Supreme Court Judgements. How many victims of India can afford to wait six years to have their criminal cases quashed in favour of the wealthy and the influential by a High Court Judge who over rules the law of the land, the evidence and Supreme Court judgements to proclaim, in open, court, that "This is India, not UK or US" and then pay a fortune to be told that the Supreme Court declines to interfere?

Divya & Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

God bless the Judiciary. The problem is that now Modi will go hell bent in devising a system to pack the courts, a-la Indira Gandhi and her sick concept of a 'committed judiciary'.
And the next to fall by the wayside will be the Right To Information Act.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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