Global Health Crisis and International Law- How nations are violating International rules and regulations?

Year 2020 also known as the ‘Pandemic Year’ of the 21st Century has taught us that global health issues are relevant for each and every human on this earth regardless of nationality. The Covid-19 situation has not only affected so called third world countries or developing countries but also most developed countries like USA, China (Wuhan is said to be the originator of Coronavirus).

As the world is still battling this pandemic situation which has not only affected human health and put billions of life at risk but it has equally affected economic and social aspect of nation and human life. It would not be wrong to say that the world is facing ‘Global health crisis’.

However there are some nations who are following international legal obligations when it comes to address this issue globally and to follow international protocol whereas there are some nations who are inspite of being signatories of  WHO] Global health law consortium and International Health Regulations are ignoring all the protocols and are acting independently in a tyranny manner. Even almost a after first COVID-19 case was reported back in December 2019 in Wuhan, yet under pressure from many countries who are members of WHO and country like USA who threatened to withdraw from primary membership of WHO, WHO has failed significantly in declaring  and admitting China accountable for initiation of the pandemic situation. Many international figures and eminent international health experts had expressed that China is not announcing true figures in terms of human loss caused due to COVID-19. China is acting sovereign and not in consortium with other UN, WHO signatories.  As per a research by  a association of 13 global health researchers hosted by the Global Strategy Lab (GSL) of York University , many countries are not fulfilling their international legal obligation during such health crisis.[1]

So what is it that most of the countries are doing wrong and how they are violating International Law?

The answer is ‘Most countries are not following rules and regulations as enshrined in Article 43 and 44 of International Health Regulations of which International Health Organisation is custodian. The signatories of International Health Organisation are permitted to exercise their sovereignity in case of global health emergency by taking additional health measures in accordance with their national law and obligations under International law  provided that such measures should not interfere International traffic and countries implementing additional health measures are under obligation to provide WHO scientific rationale including scientific evidence and state their reason for implementing them.[2] Some of the additional health measures are mentioned in Article 23(2).

Many countries are also not following international obligation as enumerated under Article 44 of the International Health Regulations which  states that ‘ States parties shall undertake to collaborate with each other in detecting and assessment of events, facilitation of technical cooperation and logistical support among other measures and WHO shall also collaborate with member States evaluating and assessment of public health capacities and mobilizing financial resources to support developing countries. [3]

In spite of International rules and regulations that are in existence for signatories members of WHO to follow, yet reality is that , International Organisation like UN,  WHO are unable to mandatory enforce their rules on members. Considering the present situation of pandemic which is a global health crisis, the member nations are not reporting exact figures of citizens of their countries who have contracted COVID-19 and how much of the fund given by the WHO is being spend to cure this disease like on developing vaccine in collaboration with private entities. The WHO is a frontrunner and a leading player in the COVAX program meaning that it is funding and developing vaccines with participating countries and once it is developed, only the participating countries will receive doses allocated by their population size. Now comes the problem, if only the participating nations will receive doses according to their population, then what about those nations who although are signatories of WHO but are not participant of COVAX program? Are they not equally entitiled to get vaccines for their own citizens. Take for example, Anti-COVID vaccines developed by Oxford Researchers in collaboration with AstraZeneca of Cambridge, UK which is approved by the UK Government on 3rd December,2020 for emergency use on vast scale for its citizens. Then what about those people living in Africa?  Are they not equally entitled for equal access of vaccine?

The present COVID-19 situation demands equal and efficient cooperation among all the nations irrespective of political ideologies because at the very core, it’s the human race who is suffering and lockdowns implemented around the world have already made it worse. Instead of fulfilling their legal obligations and cooperation towards each other, many countries are not involving in talks with each other to grant easy access to solutions to tackle COVID 19 situation. Russia had developed its own vaccine Sputnik vaccine, UK has developed vaccine which is deveopled in collaboration of Oxford and AstraZeneca Pfizer vaccine whereas USA researchers have come up with a vaccine version developed by Moderna  and another developed by Pfizer pharmaceutical company. India too is almost on the verge of sucessfully its own version of Covid19vaccines developing by Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech among others although India has yet to approve either of them for emergency use.

Although, few countries are have developed or are still developing anti-covid vaccines at rapid rate, the serious problem is that developed and rich nations are stockpiling vaccines at alarming rate. For example, India has made advance purchase of 1.6 billion doses of covid vaccine making it the biggest purchaser of covid vaccines followed by EU with 1.36 billion doses of advance purchase of covid vaccines and USA. Countries like Canada, UK, USA have purchased enough vaccines to cover their population and even more.

So, where does poor nations stand in terms of fair distribution of covid19 vaccines. Aren’t the few rich nations violating their legal obligations by not involving in equal access and distribution of covid 19 vaccine at a time when all countries must come together and act like one. it is the moral and legal duty of every member of World Health Organisation and signatories of International Health Regulations to involve in open dialogues by following International protocols to ensure that equal access prevails for human race on medical resources to tackle this global health crisis as it is the need of the hour.


[1]< https://www.rt.com/news/508660-countries-violating-international-law-pandemic/>

[2] <https://www.who.int/csr/ihr/WHA58-en.pdf&gt;

[3]< https://www.who.int/csr/ihr/WHA58-en.pdf&gt;

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND JUDICIAL SYSTEM- BITTERSWEET RELATION

IMAGE CREDIT- <forbes.com>

In the past thirty year or so. Artificial Intelligence has again gained momentum after its origin in 1955 and is proving to be a bliss in many fields like Healthcare, Automotive, Finance and Economics, Cyber security, Government, Video games, Military, Hospitality, Art, Advertising etc. Earlier, its use was mainly confined to Automotive and industrial sector and cyber security but now it is dominating every aspect of human life and judiciary is new area where applicability of artificial intelligence has started. However, not all jurists and legal experts agree about the positive impact it has on judicial system.

Earlier this year, Honorable Chief Justice of India SA Bobde stressed on the need for artificial intelligence in judiciary particularly in cases of repetitive nature, document management and decision making like rates of taxation etc. But these aren’t the only area of courts that artificial intelligence can be used. It can be apply on contract management. As per study conducted by researchers of University of Southern California, Duke Law and Stanford Law School, Artificial Intelligence type system “LawGeex” outperformed twenty imminent lawyers in finding flaws in various non-disclosure agreements which means it is capable of removing various human made legal resources[1].

In the ongoing pandemic situation which started spreading in January and by March forced almost all the entire world to a standstill and forced human race to go into lockdown including institutions like Judiciary where regular courts functioning remained suspended and in India, only very urgent matter are being allowed to be taken up by lawyers in court via video conferencing calls. The whole coronavirus has changed the entire litigation process right from filing suit to judgement being delivered by judges and AI is playing significant role in various judicial systems across the globe. For example, in Estonia, The Ministry of Justice asked Velsberg to design ‘robot judge’ to decide small claims disputes. Similarly, in USA,UK and India, stress has been given on limiting lawyers presence in courts and court hearings being done with done with the help of technology.[2] But there is flip side of relying on Artificial Intelligence. Firstly, too much reliance on AI may cost job cuts for lawyers especially in context of drafting contracts or agreements. Secondly, as AI is a program insert by human intelligence and is nothing more than machine language, it is not good to rely on AI to decide cases even those small claims dispute because not all judgements announce by judges based on legal principles and precedents, sometimes a judge delivers a judgement based on equity and social justice and AI is not equipped for that.  Thirdly, for all the existing use of AI in judicial system, it is not possible to hold AI accountable before court of law if there is an error of judgement. Clearly, there is a need for rules and regulations to hold AI accountable in court of law as it’s the humans who insert all the algorithms in machine system and thus human error is possible.

However, AI can be used in courts on daily basis to assist judges and lawyers on document management, to identify habitual offenders, repetition of suits on same ground between same parties so that courts useful time can be saved. A judge is regarded as God or higher decisive authority for a reason and that cannot be replaced by Artificial Intelligence.


[1] <https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital-india/artificial-intelligence-in-judiciary-does-it-really-make-sense/73211365>

[2] <http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/use-of-artificial-intelligence-by-the-judiciary-in-the-face-of-covid-19/>

ITS TIME FOR A NEW PANDEMIC LAW

PIC CREDIT- <emerj.com>

No one had ever imagined that 2020 is going to be ‘A Survival Year of Human Race’. Indians too never imagined that there will be time when all of them have to confine to their home for more than 1 month at least. At the time of writing this, as per official figure issued by Ministry Of Health, there are more than 96 thousand confirmed cases of coronavirus and three thousand people have lost their lives. Considering India’s population right now it can be safely assume that rate at which coronavirus is spreading across nation is slow and it’s good news. India took active measures to contain this disease much before it was declared as ‘Pandemic situation’ by World Health Organisation’.  

But the actions taken by the government during this whole phase at times felt without a concrete plan, protocol and are whimsical. As citizens, we cannot completely blame government and law because we did not anticipate this kind of serious situation. The word pandemic and related term is nowhere mentioned in any Indian Law and how to deal with it. The governments at Central and state level are practically relying on three existing laws which were enacted in last century. There is only one law which was enacted in post Y2K was The National Disaster Management Act, 2005 (NDMA). In this act, only the term ‘disaster’ is defined and its scope has been explained. According to section 2(d), the term ‘disaster’ means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in area, arising from natural or man made causes or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, degradation of, environment and is of such a nature that is beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. Chapter II and III of the said act explain functions of National and State Disaster Management Authority in times of disaster and to prepare plan to mitigate disasters. The most important provision under this act which provides some sort of guidance to the government is provided under section 35 which deals with measures taken by the government for disaster management and includes coordinated action between ministries and governmental departments, ensure the integration of measures for prevention of disasters, allocation of funds for prevention and mitigation disaster, coordination with UN agencies and international organizations etc.

The scope of term ‘Disaster’ definitely needs to be widened so to include pandemic and any future catastrophic event and the measures taken by the government in case of crisis needs to be more inclusive like a national plan with regard to movement, employment, providing basic resources like food and shelter to those in need during such natural emergency etc.

Another law that deals with epidemic is The Epidemic Act of 1897 recently amended by way of Ordinance. The new amendment act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic disease. The motive behind bringing an ordinance is to protect the lives of healthcare personnel who are carrying out their public duty to contain pandemic situation from any harm, injury, hurt and danger to life. The new epidemic Act fails to include the term ‘pandemic’ and anything related to it.

Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code is third and last legal provision that the Central Government has strictly enforced on the people including non-citizens. Section 144 prohibits gathering of more than 5 people in public places failing which a person shall be liable to be punished up to 3 years of imprisonment. But even this legal provision is proving to be ineffective especially after first phase of lockdown. Migrants from various states of India were seen protesting in big numbers in public place demanding basic needs and many of them in big numbers are moving on foot to reach their native place. Even after gathering at worship place is banned including opening and entry, at few occasions worshippers were gathering to mark festival or religious event.

CONCLUSION

India isn’t the only country who doesn’t have legal framework to deal with such catastrophe. Many developed nations are also doesn’t equipped with special or separate law to deal with this type of virus disease which globally has created a havoc. This critical time apart from misery has given us an opportunity to prepare and equip ourselves to face similar event in future if need arise.

After India successfully achieves flattening curve in controlling this disease and once life goes on with normal routine. The government must look into serious loopholes our legal system has with regard to health emergency and health care and come up with a separate law to deal with pandemic diseases or events in exhaustive manner. It must also include measures to be taken regarding continuous employment of those who cannot work from home and are in dire need of earning basic financial resources for themselves and those who are dependent on them. Government has recently announced huge financial relief for all sectors of economy but now India is in phase where life is eventually becoming normal from standstill.

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