An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Draconian Intent of the Government of India in the new IT Act Rules which threaten to gag bloggers

In the new draft of the Information Technology (due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011, there is a disturbing suggestiion by the Indian Government. And this suggestion in itself may have been excusable as an oversight, but when it is looked in context of the overall actions and the powers, the leaders of the Government have tried to expropriate to themselves, then it makes shocking revelation.

That the Government Ministers have plundered in billions, and indeed Trillions of Dollars of public money in the last few years is not hidden now. From the CWG scam to the 2G scam to the way the budget is used to push money to the politicians and the bureaucrats is shocking. But even more shocking was the way in which the current Government pushed a corrupt bureaucrat, who was in all probability complicit in the 2G telecom scam as the Central Vigilance Commission Chief at the height of that scam.

The PM – notwithstanding his wise little guy looks – oscillates between rebuking Supreme Court and patiently admitting his “error of judgment” when his hand is slapped by the very judges he tried to keep in line!

There are other ways to keep the judiciary in line. One of the tools is obviously the appointments. There could be others. Newspapers and Media is anyway in bed with these politicians, as was obvious from Barkha Dutt and Radia episode.

The only real – and I mean REAL – corner of resistance is the social media. And this includes the blogging world. Admitted that the bloggers in India are amateur and their platforms are very dispersed and scratchy. But there is a strong likelihood that in an event of national uprising, such a media can play a vital role.

If anything that uprising in Egypt has taught, then it is that ordinary people with a bit of help from online media – facebook and blogs – can create an offline – REAL – movements, that can topple Govenrment of even dictators. That surely must be playing on the minds of the corrupt Governments of the day. Corrupt as the Indian Government is, it is no surprise that it has come out with its own version of dictatorial (and possibly draconian) suggested amendment, which may look harmless – or its use far fetched – but when the situation arises which aims to threaten the damning corrupt politicians, then such dormant powers can quickly blossom into actual crackdown.

The real culprit are the sub-rules 3(2)(b) and 3(2)(g), which go far beyond Section 69A of the Act and

provide for blocking content which, “is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever” and “causes annoyance or inconvenience or deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of such messages or communicates any information which is grossly offensive or menacing in nature;”

It is instructive to note that The Blocking of Information Rules, 2009 already provide a mechanism to block information in India, which provides for mechanisms to safeguard in event of misuse of powers by corrupt officials. In that act, there is a provision for appointing a designated officer through a notification in the Official Gazette to issue directions for blocking access. However, in the current rules. the onus is on the “intermediary”, where it says that “the intermediary upon obtaining actual knowledge by an authority mandated under law for the time being in force…” should block access to the information. That means bloggers have to constantly keep a eye on their content because someone will find their content threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory.

What if someone from a certain religion stands up and has me arrested if I say the concept of “Day of Judgment” is bullshit (an opinion, which I completely subscribe to btw), because what I say is “blasphemous” to him?

Do you see the extent and possibility of mischief? And you thought blasphemy was only the problem of the Pakistanis? If the current Government has its way, India will very soon be under a Jehadi dispensation – just that the name of the organization will be a Secular sounding one.

Here are the actual rules which you can download and read for yourself.

Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal information) Rules, 2011

Information Technology (Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011

Information Technology (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe) Rules, 2011

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