Substantive right accrued to a litigant should not be defeated citing procedural defects capable of being cured: SC - Business Guardian
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Substantive right accrued to a litigant should not be defeated citing procedural defects capable of being cured: SC



Don’t compare Turban, Kirpan with Hijab: SC

Without mincing any words, the Supreme Court has in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled M/S Ramnath Exports Pvt Ltd vs Vinita Mehta & Anr. in Civil Appeal No. 4639 of 2022 [Arising out of SLP (C) No. 30216 of 2018] cited in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 564 and pronounced as recently as on July 5, 2022 minced absolutely no words in holding unequivocally that substantive right accrued to the litigant should not be defeated citing a procedural defeat capable of being cured. The Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari minced just no words to hold that, “It is a trite law that the procedural defect may fall within the purview of irregularity and capable of being cured, but it should not be allowed to defeat the substantive right accrued to the litigant without affording reasonable opportunity.” Very rightly so.

To start with, this refreshing, robust, rational and recent judgment authored by Justice JK Maheshwari for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice Indira Banerjee sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “This appeal arises out of the judgment dated 04.07.2018, passed by High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital in First Appeal No. 50 of 2008, preferred by appellant herein against the ‘common judgment’ dated 16.04.2008 passed by Trial Court in Suit No. 411 of 1989 (filed by respondents herein joining appellant as defendant) and Suit No. 419 of 1993 (filed by appellant herein joining respondents as defendant). In Suit No. 411 of 1989, respondents sought ‘permanent injunction’ against appellant restraining it from interfering in the right of use of concerned passage or causing any interference or putting any obstruction in the usage of the said passage and not to make any septic tank, soakage pit or raise any other construction. The respondents also prayed for grant of ‘mandatory injunction’ against the appellant, making prayer to remove and demolish the walls on the concerned passage and restoring the passage to its original width of 13 ft. and filling up the ditch near the gate of plaintiff no.2 (respondent no.2 herein). In Suit No. 419 of 1993, appellant herein prayed for ‘permanent injunction’ restraining the respondents/defendants from providing or creating any passage through the property of appellant after demolishing the existing passage. Since both the suits involved grievances pertaining to the passage of the same land, therefore by consent order dated 18.08.2006 both were consolidated. The common issues were framed by Trial Court to facilitate disposal of both suits by same evidence. Consequently, the aforesaid consolidated suits were disposed off by the Trial Court by a common judgment dated 16.04.2008, though two separate decrees were drawn on 30.04.2008. The Suit No. 411 of 1989 was partly decreed in favour of plaintiff no. 2 (respondent no.2 herein), whereas Suit No. 419 of 1993 was dismissed.”

As it turned out, the Bench then mentions clearly in para 3 that, “Being aggrieved by the common judgment, appellant preferred First Appeal No. 50 of 2008 before the High Court challenging both the decrees. On filing appeal, at the initial stage, appellant also preferred an application being CLMA No. 4365 of 2008 (in short be referred as “CLMA”) and sought permission to file a single appeal assailing the common judgment dated 16.04.2008 alongwith two separate decrees dated 30.04.2008. The first appeal was admitted by High Court vide order dated 18.07.2008 and by the same order, two weeks’ time was granted to file objections on CLMA and further two weeks to file rejoinder. It was further directed to list the application after lapse of the said period.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “The High Court without passing any order on the said CLMA, at the time of hearing of the appeal, accepted the preliminary objection regarding maintainability of single first appeal without entering into the merits of the case. The Court said that the case is restricted to the question of applicability of principle of res judicata and, taking into consideration the material placed and the contentions raised by both the parties, the appeal was dismissed holding that one appeal is not maintainable and barred by res judicata. In the impugned order, the High Court has considered the full bench judgment of Allahabad High Court in the case of Zaharia Vs. Dibia & Ors., ALR (1910) Allahabad 51, and also the case of Narhari & Ors. Vs. Shanker & Ors., AIR 1953 SC 419 in which full bench judgment of Lahore High Court passed in case of Mt. Lachhmi Vs. Mt. Bhulli, AIR 1927 Lahore 289 was relied. The Court distinguished the full bench judgment of Mt. Lachhmi (supra) of Lahore High Court and also the judgment of this Court in the case of Narhari (supra) and placing reliance upon the judgment of Lonankutty Vs. Thomman & Anr., (1976) 3 SCC 528, said that the case in hand is similar to the case of Lonankutty (supra) which was dismissed on the ground of res judicata alone. The High Court further relied upon the judgment of this Court in Sri Gangai Vinayagar Temple & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Ammal & Ors., (2015) 3 SCC 624, wherein, this Court was dealing with the concept of res judicata discussed law on the point of applicability of res judicata and observed that losing party must file appeals in respect of all adverse decree founded even on partially adverse or contrary speaking judgments.”

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, “In impugned order, the Court held that separate appeals ought to have been filed by appellant against the decree given in Suit No. 411 of 1989 as well as in Suit No. 419 of 1993. Failure to file separate appeals would invite the applicability of principle of res judicata. The Court in the order concluded that one appeal against both the decrees is not tenable in terms of clear stipulation as per Section 96 of CPC. As separate appeals have not been filed against both the decrees, res judicata would operate as against the findings given in another suit even after consolidation. Thus, held that, the cause of appellant is foreclosed by applicability of principle of res judicata.”

Simply put, the Bench then reveals in para 6 that, “Being aggrieved, the appellant preferred instant appeal and learned counsel present has contested the same on following grounds –

a) The appellant had assailed the findings recorded by Trial Court by mentioning both the suit numbers alongwith payment of requisite court fee for the purpose of valuation on the basis of consolidated value of suits;

b) The first appeal was admitted by High Court vide order dated 18.07.2008 , but the same was dismissed after a decade without entering into the merits of the case;

c) While admitting the appeal, notice was issued on CLMA, i.e., application to seek permission to file single appeal impugning the common judgment and two decrees, but without deciding the said application, the preliminary objections raised by the respondents has been maintained causing serious prejudice to it;

d) The essence of rule of res-judicata is that the two proceedings should be so independent of each other that the trial of one cannot be confused with trial of other suit, but where two suits having common issue were tried together and disposed-off vide single judgment, can they be said to be two distinct and independent trials;

e) In effect, only one judgment was passed in the trial and suits were not clubbed but were consolidated for all purposes;

f) In support of the said contentions learned counsel would rely upon –

i. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors. Vs. B. Ranga Reddy (thru LR’s) & Ors., (2020) 15 SCC 681;

ii. Sri Gangai Vinayagar Temple & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Ammal & Ors., (2015) 3 SCC 624;.”

No doubt, the Bench then rightly points out in para 7 that, “Per contra, the counsel for the respondents has argued in support of the findings recorded in the impugned judgment and made the following submissions –

a. The appellant unilaterally preferred single appeal and paid the Court fee on the basis of consolidated value of suits, whereas, separate Court fee was to be calculated on each decree and affixed accordingly;

b. Appeal against decree in Civil Suit No.411 of 1989 can be filed before District Judge, having a limitation of 30 days as per Section 8 of Suits Valuation Act, 1887, whereas, looking to the valuation, appeal against decree in Civil Suit No.419 of 1993 lies before High Court having a limitation of 90 days. No such appeal against decree in Civil Suit No.411 of 1989 before District judge was preferred by appellant;

c. The judgment and decree passed in Civil Suit No.411 of 1989 has attained finality inter-se parties since it was not challenged within the prescribed period of limitation;

d. Consolidation of suits was done only for evidence and it does not mean that one appeal can be preferred since suits still retain their separate identity. Even assuming that the consolidation was for all purposes, yet the procedure for preferring an appeal cannot be waived or by-passed;

e. Since the day of notice in first appeal, objection has been raised for filing only one appeal and still the said defect was not rectified by the appellant;

f. Learned counsel placed reliance on following judgments to substantiate the submissions –

i. Sri Gangai Vinayagar Temple & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Ammal & Ors., (2015) 3 SCC 624;

ii. V. Natarajan Vs. SKS Ispat & Power Ltd. & Ors., Civil Appeal No.3327 of 2020)

iii. B. Santoshamma & Anr. Vs. D. Sarla & Anr., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 756;.”

Quite pertinently, the Bench then observes in para 8 that, “After having heard learned counsel for parties and on perusal of the material available, we have read the provision of Section 96 of CPC, which provides for filing of an appeal from the decree by any Court exercising original jurisdiction to the Court authorized to hear appeals from the decisions of such Courts. It is also settled that an appeal is a continuation of the proceedings of the original court. Ordinarily, in the first appeal, the appellate jurisdiction involves a re-hearing on law as well as on fact as invoked by an aggrieved person. The first appeal is a valuable right of the appellant and therein all questions of fact and law are open for consideration by re-appreciating the material and evidence. Therefore, the first appellate court is required to address on all the issues and decide the appeal assigning valid reasons either in support or against by re-appraisal. The court of first appeal must record its findings dealing all the issues, considering oral as well as documentary evidence led by the parties.”

Be it noted, the Bench then hastens to add in para 9 that, “In the instant case, it is not disputed that appellant herein filed CLMA, i.e., application seeking permission to file single appeal against the common judgment as well as the two separate decrees passed in consolidated suits. Further, as is evident from the record, especially from the order dated 18.07.2008, the High Court at the time of admission of the appeal specifically directed that CLMA be listed for disposal after expiry of four weeks’ time given to both parties to file counter as well as rejoinder affidavits.

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India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability



The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border



India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital



India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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Penalty provisions for dissemination of deepfakes can create deterrent effect: CUTS



A senior official from the global think tank CUTS International has emphasized the significance of penalty provisions in deterring the creation and spread of deepfakes and misinformation. Amol Kulkarni, Director of Research at CUTS International, highlighted the need for technological interventions to curb the misuse of AI-generated content.

CUTS International, Director, Research, Amol Kulkarni told the media that internet users would require adequate opportunities to verify the genuineness of content and it becomes important during the election season while the role of credible fact-checkers and trusted flaggers becomes crucial. He said that while the government advisory on March 15 removes permission requirements, it continues to rely on information disclosures to users for making the right choices on the Internet.

“Though transparency is good, information overload and ‘popups’ across user journeys may reduce their quality of experience. There is a need to balance the information requirements, with other implementable technological and accountability solutions which can address the problem of deepfakes and misinformation,” Kulkarni said. After a controversy over a response of Google’s AI platform to queries related to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government on 1 March issued an advisory for social media and other platforms to label undertrial AI models and prevent hosting unlawful content. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in the advisory issued to intermediaries and platforms warned of criminal action in case of non-compliance. The previous advisory has asked the entities to seek approval from the government for deploying under trial or unreliable artificial intelligence (AI) models and deploy them only after labelling them of “possible and inherent fallibility or unreliability of the output generated”.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT on March 15 issued a revised advisory on the use and rollout of AI-generated content. The IT ministry removed the need for government approval for untested and under-development AI models but emphasised the need for labelling AI-generated content and information to users about the possible inherent fallibility and unreliability of the output generated.

Kulkarni said that addressing the issue of deepfakes and misinformation will require clarifying the responsibility of all stakeholders in the internet ecosystem: developers, uploaders, disseminators, platforms and consumers of content. “Penalty provisions for the development and dissemination of harmful deepfakes and misinformation could also create a deterrent effect. Technological solutions to tag potentially harmful content and shifting the burden on developers and disseminators to justify the use of such content could also be designed,” he said.

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