Lok Sabha committee tells Kapil Sibal to re-examine the Information Technology Rules 2011

SFLC.in has a quick summary:

The Thirty-first Report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation (2012-2013) was presented in the Lok Sabha today on 21 March, 2013 by Shri P. Karunakaran, Chairman of the Committee.

The Committee examined the following rules:-

(i) The Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011[GSR 313(E)]

(ii) The Information Technology (IntermediariesCommittee Report Guidelines) Rules, 2011[GSR314 (E)]

(iii) The Information Technology (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe) Rules, 2011[GSR315(E)]

(iv) The Information Technology (Electronic Service Delivery) Rules, 2011[GSR316 (E)]

The Committee made the following observations: Continue reading “Lok Sabha committee tells Kapil Sibal to re-examine the Information Technology Rules 2011”

Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked

kafila-arindam-c-iipm-blocked
The webpage http://kafila.org/2011/06/22/arindam-chaudhuri-silchar has been blocked by Internet Service Providers in India. Some users will see a blank page (like above) and others will see a note that the page has been blocked on the orders of the Department of Telecommunications.

Until Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama.com informed me, I had no clue that  India’s unjust and arbitrary internet censorship regime had finally affected Kafila. Medianama published on Friday 15 February a list of 78 URLs that the Department of Telecommunications had ordered ISPs to block. 73 of them were webpages critical of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), whose Arindam Chaudhuri has a long history of complaining about the Internet. Continue reading “Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked”

Freedom of speech in India is for the rich and the powerful

While freedom of speech and expression in India is under attack from all sides, have you noticed how the rich and the powerful can say what they like without getting arrested, facing FIRs and courts, hiring lawyers and so on?

While an innocuous tweet or Facebook status update can land you in police lock-up on a Saturday night or Sunday morning 5 am, a Digvijaya Singh can say sexist crap against Rakhi Sawant and get away with it.

Here’s another example from Twitter recently. Lalit Modi of IPL infamy, who wants us to believe his coming to India and facing the law is a security threat to him, tweeted that the BJP’s  Arun Jaitley would lose his deposit if he contested the Lok Sabha seat from Jaipur. (Lalit Modi thinks he’s the Maharaja of Rajasthan.) In response to that, one Ankush Jain replied… Continue reading “Freedom of speech in India is for the rich and the powerful”

This Troll Has a Very Long Nose

Ironically, the random arrest of people for tweets or Facebook postings made some of us happy—happy that, at last, citizens have started showing concern about internet censorship. But lock-up gates had to clang at night on the faces of a few people before we realised that, in our pompous democracy, the might of the state is Ctrl-Alt-Deleting opinion with such serious zeal. The arrests have been made under Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, notified in October 2009. This section makes punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment anything that is perceived as “grossly offensive” but does not set out the parameters of how to decide on that—even if we were to believe that could at all be done. Questions about these arrests are deflected: the government blames the police, the police says a vague law is the problem, and those who file the complaints that lead to such arrests say that they are free to seek enforcement of an existing law.

Anyone can see that the section is not designed to nudge a case towards a conviction verdict. It is designed only to harass. Arrests, courtwork, bail. You are ground down, but the government spokesman is able to say, “The law is taking its own course.” The implication: “Aren’t you grateful you have obtained bail?” But the recent arrests have caused outrage. Taking up a PIL against the section, the Supreme Court had said in December that had it not been filed, it would have taken up the matter anyway. Despite this, the government defended the section in the Rajya Sabha, refusing to repeal it and merely adding guidelines that such arrests should be made by an officer of a higher rank—as if that would make it better.

Read more, here.

Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash

Guest post by PRANESH PRAKASH

This morning, there was a short report in the Mumbai Mirror about two girls having been arrested for comments one of them made, and the other ‘liked’, on Facebook about Bal Thackeray:

Police on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old girl for questioning the total shutdown in the city for Bal Thackeray’s funeral on her Facebook account. Another girl who ‘liked’ the comment was also arrested.

The duo were booked under Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Though the girl withdrew her comment and apologised, a mob of some 2,000 Shiv Sena workers attacked and ransacked her uncle’s orthopaedic clinic at Palghar.

“Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that,” said PI Uttam Sonawane.

What provisions of law were used?

There’s a small mistake in Mumbai Mirror‘s reportage as there is no section “64(a)”1 in the Information Technology (IT) Act, nor a section “295(a)” in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They must have meant section 295A of the IPC (“outraging religious feelings of any class”) and section 66A of the IT Act (“sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.”). The Wall Street Journal’s Shreya Shah has confirmed that the second provision was section 66A of the IT Act.

Section 295A of the IPC is cognizable and non-bailable, and hence the police have the powers to arrest a person accused of this without a warrant.2 Section 66A of the IT Act is cognizable and bailable. Some news sources claim that section 505(2) of the IPC (“Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes”) has also been invoked.

This is clearly a case of misapplication of s.295A of the IPC.3 This provision has been frivolously used numerous times in Maharashtra. Even the banning of James Laine’s book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India happened under s.295A, and the ban was subsequently held to have been unlawful by both the Bombay High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Indeed, s.295A has not been applied in cases where it is more apparent, making this seem like a parody news report. Continue reading “Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash”

Quietly censors the nanny state: Mishi Choudhary

 

Guest post by MISHI CHOUDHARY

New Delhi’s Sanchar Bhawan, which houses the office of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

The recent curbs on social networking websites in India demonstrate the unpredictability of the legal environment, both for businesses and the citizens. Whether its the Government of India’s (GoI) insistence on getting access to corporate emails and text messages sent via BlackBerry devices, or changing stances on “pre-screening” user generated content, the authorities seem to be doing a tap dance around legal issues. The implementation of rules seems surreptitious as they are bent conveniently in the name of “security”. Continue reading “Quietly censors the nanny state: Mishi Choudhary”