The chairman of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) is having a Barbara Streisand moment.
The American entertainer Barbra Streisand, in 2003, attempted to suppress photographs of her residence, involuntarily and indirectly fuelling further publicity. Arindam Chaudhuri's order from a Gwalior Court has unfortunately resulted in more or less the same.
The DoT's CERT team has successfully censored more than 70 URLs that didn't particularly contain praises of IIPM. Amusingly, a URL containing a public notice issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in July 2012 was also blocked. The UGC notice said that IIPM cannot be recognized as a university according to the provisions of a particular section.
So while this issue has managed to hold our attention, it has also fervently highlighted the misappropriation of section 69 of India's Information Technology (IT) Act 2000. According to this act, if the Director of Controller is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so, he/she may order or direct any agency of the Government to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource.
In short, intercepting or blocking is counter-productive in today's scenario and is often seen as a direct infringement of people's online freedom. "The Constitution of India does not put so many restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression that IT Act puts under a particular section," says cyber law expert, Pavan Duggal.
Legal experts are also of the opinion that several provisions of the IT Act are unconstitutional. "It does not have built-in safeguards, especially transparency-related ones, around surveillance and censorship. Censorship in India, especially under the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, is completely opaque and results in invisible censorship, meaning that we don't even get to find out that censorship has happened and thus cannot challenge it," says Pranesh Prakash, policy director, Centre for Internet and Society.
In the past, independent activists such as Binayak Sen, Assem Trivedi, and Arundhati Roy, or even commoners such as Shaheen Dhadha have come under fire of the said Act.
Frankly, if this loophole in the IT Act is not addressed, even Indian corporations could face a similar problem.
"I believe all intermediaries (websites that host user content, and networks that carry user traffic among others) are threatened now. Their executives can be dragged to court without any protection; thanks to the broad wording of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, despite the IT Act itself granting them some protections. This is dangerous, and all Indian enterprises should be very worried," says Prakash.
CorporateIndiawill have to tighten its belts. Despite the fact that the entire IT Act needs to be overhauled and employees need to be sensitized, currently, the first thing that corporate India needs to do is ensure that its operations in electronic format comply with the IT Act and its rules.
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