Recent debates on Internet censorship in India have focused to the allegedly free-for-all nature of the internet. Those of us who have argued against internet censorship have been somewhat misrepresented as arguing for absolute freedom whereby the reasonable restrictions laid down in Article 19 (A) of the Constitution of India don’t apply. Nothing could be farther than the truth.
It has been said that the internet can be used to incite violence, particularly inter-communal violence, and there needs to be a mechanism to prevent that. Communications minister Kapil Sibal wants internet giants to “self-regulate” for this reason, denying that he wants to censor political dissent on the internet. Following on the heels of his expression of such concern in December 2011, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi and journalist Vinay Rai filed cases against various internet companies for similar material that is religiously offensive.It needs to be pointed out, however, that the cases filed by Qasmi and Rai are under the Indian Penal Code and do not even invoke the Information Technology Act. So if the Indian Penal Code can be used against religiously offensive material why do we need any new mechanism to “regulate” or even “self-regulate” the internet? Continue reading Unpacking India’s Internet Censorship Debate