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All Posts | Apr 01,2020

Open letter for restoration of 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of COVID-19

Open letter for restoration of 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of COVID-19

SFLC.in wrote an open letter to the Principle Secretary of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Home Minister Amit Shah on March 31 requesting them to restore 4G internet speed in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmir has been facing an internet blackout since August 4, 2019 and it is only recently that citizens have gained access to the internet at 2G speed. The current order issued by the Centre following the top court's ruling states that the speed of the internet will be restricted to 2G till April 3, 2020 after which the order will be pending a review.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic which has resulted in public health chaos. As of March 31, 2020, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir has reached 55. To fight this global pandemic, timely information is needed which isn't possible without reasonably high speed internet access. Restricted internet has led to citizens of the UT, not being able to download informative videos as well as resource material for dissemination of necessary and accurate information, when a lot of rumours and misinformation are doing the rounds. Timely information both to the general public, medical professionals and media is needed to fight the pandemic.

In order to contain the spread of infection and monitor patients, telemedicine is important along with access to high speed internet for doctors to be able to access material online and to do video consultations with other healthcare practitioners as well as patients.

There is a severe lack of information among the citizens in Jammu and Kashmir owning to the fact that information cannot be accessed without proper internet. Multimedia content including that issued by the Health Ministry and WHO cannot be accessed as well. There are a number of students, working professionals and other citizens who have been asked to work from home due to the lock down in view of the corona virus, and this is possible only if unrestricted internet access to internet is allowed.

Sub- clause (d) of Clause 4 o the Annexure to order no. 40-3/2020 dated 24-03-2020 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs states that telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services, IT and IT enabled services are exceptions to lock-down for essential services. Functional high speed internet is a pre-requisite to contain the pandemic as well as to mitigate the damage both in terms of health of the citizens and economy.

In our letter, we have requested the government to consider the prevailing extraordinary circumstances and restore 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir on an urgent basis.

About SFLC.IN

SFLC.IN is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.in promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make great Free and Open Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice and help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.

For further communication:
Prasanth Sugathan
Voluntary Legal Director, SFLC.IN
prasanth@sflc.in

All Posts | Sep 20,2019

Kerala High Court Declares ‘Right to Access Internet’ as a Fundamental Right

Kerala High Court Declares ‘Right to Access Internet’ as a Fundamental Right

The Kerala High Court in a monumental decision has held ‘Right to Internet Access’ as a fundamental right. The Court declared that the right to have access to Internet becomes the part of right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The petition was filed by Faheema Shirin, a hostel resident and student of Sree Narayana College, Chelanur, Kozhikode against the discriminatory girls’ hostel rules, specifically banning use of mobile phones from 6 PM to 10 PM which restricted them from accessing internet. The petitioner was subsequently arbitrarily expelled from the hostel on protesting against the rules.

Delhi based not-for-profit legal services organisation SFLC.in (Software Freedom Law Centre, India), intervened in the matter for the petitioner. In the counter-affidavit filed, SFLC.in brought to Court’s notice the arbitrary, unlawful and unconstitutional restrictions imposed on the female residents by the hostel authorities, specifically violations of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 which provide rights to equality, information and personal liberty. Restricting use of digital devices hampered the girl students’ ‘ability to access and use digital resources to learn and communicate’, thus putting them at serious disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

Further, the invasive practices of confiscating the digital devices of students as violative of their Right to Privacy which was acknowledged as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in J. K.S. Puttaswamy V. Union of India in 2017. Further, various state and central government policies and initiatives to digitise educational resources like SWAYAM platform were also presented.

Further, on women empowerment and anti-discriminatory practices, the Court relied on UN General Assembly Resolution dated 24th June, 2013; the Beijing Declaration and Apex Court Judgment in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan & Ors. The Court, vociferously, stated while referring to attempts to discipline students ‘...who attained majority and those who want to enforce discipline as their guardian angels should be conscious of the need of the hour to get the children armed with the modem technique(s)’. Finally, the Court directed the respondent hostel to re-admit the petitioner without further delay.

The Hon’ble single judge bench of Justice PV Asha said, “the enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge. They should be left to choose the time for using mobile phones. The only restriction that can be imposed should not cause any disturbance to other students.” Court while discussing the benefits of internet access using mobile phones stated that, apart from the facilities to read e-news, e-books, etc. one can undergo online courses also sitting at home or hostel. While acknowledging the importance of technology expressed, ‘...it is pertinent to note that rules and regulations require reforms to cope up with the advancement of technology and the importance of modem technology in day to day life’ and ‘it should be left to the students to choose the time for using mobile phone’.

We intervened in the case because it was about protecting digital freedom, free speech and against censorship. I am glad that the court ruled in favour of the student and thus upheld the right to use the Internet as a fundamental right,” SFLC.in executive director Sundar Krishnan

The decision holds a significant bearing on promoting innovation and open access to knowledge and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world.

The judgement can be found below.

 

 

All Posts | Aug 02,2019

SFLC.in impleads in Kerala HC Against Denial of Internet Access to Female Residents

An undergratuate student at Sree Narayana College, Chelanur, Kozhikode, Kerala has filed a petition in Kerala High Court against discriminatory hostel rules for female residents and arbitrary restrictions on accessing internet and electronic devices. According to the petition, the hostel rules deny residents of girls’ hostel from using mobile phones between 6 pm to 10 pm. Further, undergraduate students are not allowed to use laptops in hostel premises. In order to enforce the rule, the residents are required to deposit their mobile phones to the hostel authorities every evening at 6 pm.

Reliefs sought by petitioner include declaration of rules banning use of mobile phones between 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. as violative of the Constitution. SFLC.in joined the proceedings as a party by filing an impleadment application in the Hon’ble High Court. In the said application we raised the importance of internet and use of digital resources to learn and communicate.

Students had earlier raised concerns regarding this unreasonable rule to the Deputy Warden of the Women’s Hostel. Instead of having an open discussion on students’ grievances, they were informed by the authorities that those not willing to abide by the hostel rules would be required to vacate their hostel rooms. Receiving no reasonable response from hostel administration, the Petitioner thereafter approached the college Principal with her grievance. The Principal asked her to state in a letter that she was unwilling to abide by the rule. Upon doing so, instead of relaxing the arbitrary rules, the Petitioner was asked to vacate her hostel room on a short notice of 12 hours. Thereafter, her room was locked by the administration and she was not even allowed to collect her personal belongings.

The restrictive, arbitrary rules raise issues concerning violation of constitutional rights including Article 14 and Article 19(1)(a). The petition, while claiming grounds under Article 19(1)(a), cites the Apex Court in The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v Cricket Association of Bengal & Anr. [1995 AIR 1236] which held that “The freedom of speech and expression includes right to acquire information and to disseminate it” and “The right to communicate, therefore, includes right to communicate through any media that is available whether print or electronic or audio-visual such as advertisement, movie, article, speech etc.” Further, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v Union of India [AIR 2015 SC 1523] held that, “If the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to disseminate information to as wide a section of the population as is possible, the access which enables the right to be so exercised is also an integral part of the said right. The wider range of circulation of information or its greater impact cannot restrict the content of the right nor can it justify its denial. The virtues of the electronic media cannot become its enemies. It may warrant a greater regulation over licensing and control and vigilance on the content of the programme telecast. However, this control can only be exercised within the framework of Article 19(2) and the dictates of public interests. To plead for other grounds is to plead for unconstitutional measures.”

The petition also submits that ‘the restrictions placed on the use of internet through the restriction on the use of phones and laptops hinders development and personal growth of these young, bright and impressionable students.’ It takes support of ND Jayal v. Union of India [2004 (9) SCC 362], where ‘the right to development was held to be an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.’

Further, as per the petition, the hostel rules contravene UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012; principles embodied in Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, Beijing Declaration. Further, the hostel administration does not provide a reference library to residents to aid the learning process post college-hours. Accessing learning resources over the internet thus becomes a necessity for students.

Also, while raising that hostel residents have a reasonable expectation of living in their private space while in hostel, the petition cites Justice Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors [2017 (10) SCC 1] wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “Recognizing a zone of privacy is but an acknowledgment that each individual must be entitled to chart and pursue the course of development of personality” and “The notion of privacy enables the individual to assert and control the human element which is inseparable from the personality of the individual. The inviolable nature of the human personality is manifested in the ability to make decisions on matters intimate to human life.” The petitioner states that ‘As adults, the students are entitled to their freedom to choose whether to use or not use mobile phones or laptops, and the unreasonable restriction on the same imposed by the college is unconstitutional.’ Further, support was taken from Honourable Supreme Court’s judgment in Shafin Jahan V. Asokan K.M. & Ors. [2018 (2) KHC 890] observed that parents of the adult inmates do not have the liberty to decide what the just way of life or correct course of living as far as their children are concerned ought to be.

SFLC.in in its impleadment application submitted, ‘Internet is the greatest equalizer in our history. It makes it possible for anyone from any background and any standing in society to be able to access any information at the touch of a button. No longer are we restricted by the physical limitations caused by the lack of skilled and knowledgeable teachers and access to books, journals, newspapers and other written material.’ Further, pointing at the educational courses available online, the application said, ‘Over the past few years, there has been a rise of Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) platforms – these are platforms on which people from across the world can access educational courses taught by professional teachers. The quantum of knowledge available online is increasing every day. Arbitrarily restricting the ability to access this information puts female inmates of the college at a serious disadvantage compared to male inmates of the hostel, students that do not stay in hostels, and students of other colleges.’

These arbitrary restrictions exemplify the irony behind the student entrepreneurship programs and schemes like ‘Digital India’ that encourage internet access while in actuality students are pushed back to orthodox learning practices. It is unrealistic to expect from students to subsequently become future leaders with scientific temper, torch-bearers of innovation and build India-based start-ups when we fail in putting minimal trust by denying them use of mobile phone and laptops. The time students get after-class gives them a chance to reflect them on their day’s learning. Since internet now provides them an opportunity to clarify any query they might have, restraining them to access the same and expecting them to ‘find the answers’ from the standard text-book sources makes their knowledge localized. They are denied access to latest developments, and varied perspectives on issues concerning their education.

This directly contradicts Kerala Information Technology Policy, 2017. The objectives of this Policy include, among others, ‘Partnering with schools, technical education institutions and broader academia is planned to achieve these (policy) goals’; ‘Ensure Universal Open access to data, information and knowledge resources in a digital domain. Enable access of content and ICT applications to the differently-abled’. Further, Mobile Governance is a focus area of the Policy towards developing ‘Digitally Empowered Citizens’. Additionally, the Respondent College’s affiliating university i.e. University of Calicut has itself promoted and taken steps towards use of technology in higher education. The University is active in developing (Massive Online Open Courses) under Indian e-learning platform SWAYAM. It is aimed at bridging digital divide for students who have hitherto been untouched by the digital revolution. The University is the host institution for 13 MOOCs. Restraining students from accessing internet would deprive them of rich educational content available on the SWAYAM platform.

SFLC.in remains resolved to defend digital rights of users and to promote free and open internet access. Please stay connected with us for updates on the case.

All Posts | Dec 18,2018

Read me not: List of banned books in India

Over the years India has seen various books being banned for several reasons, ranging from defamation to offending religious sentiments of a community. The law commonly used to ban books/ prevent sale and production of certain books is Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which confers powers on the State Government to ban a book if a book contains content that may "promote, or attempt to promote, enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, or disharmony, or feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious groups and the publication of such matters is punishable under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code." Section 153A of IPC provides punishments for acts which promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, among others.

We have curated a list that contains books that have been banned in India since independence of India, the data for which has been gathered from secondary sources mainly.

A lot of times, instances of censorship and banned books are not reported by the media, and therefore we are creating a citizen reporting mechanism. Write to us at mail@sflc.in or send us a DM on our twitter handle (@SFLCin) if you come across any book that has been banned in India.

 

S.No.

Name of the book

Author

Year

State

Description

  1.  

Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev

Priyanka Pathak

2017

Nationwide

It was banned on the ground that it was extremely defamatory in nature for the protagonist.

  1.  

Madhorubhagan

Perumal Murugan

Previously banned,currently available on E-Commerce websites.

Nationwide

It was alleged that the book contained materials that hurts the sentiments of the community, defamed women and outraged religious feelings. Subsequently after several protests, the author withdrew all the unsold copies of this novel. Petition were filed in the Madras High Court in order to ban the book but the petition was dismissed and book didn’t got banned.1

  1.  

Korkoi

Joe D’Cruz

2015

Nationwide

 

  1.  

Sahara: The Untold Story

Tamal Bandyopadhyay

2014

Nationwide

A stay order was ordered on the release of this book by the Calcutta High Court. Though the book was released, but with a disclaimer given by Sahara.

  1.  

The Descent of Air India

Jitendra Bhargava

2014

Nationwide

The author who worked for almost two decades with Air India brings out his insider view about the ground reality of the company. All the book was withdrawn later on by the publisher because of defamation charges.

  1.  

Santsurya Tukaram and Loksakha Dnyaneshwar

Anand Yadav

2014

Nationwide

A magistrate in Pune ordered to destroy the copies of these two novels which is based on the lives of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram. It was alleged that the contents of these novels were defamatory.2

  1.  

The Hindus: An Alternative History

Wendy Doniger

2014

Nationwide

The book was withdrawn from the Indian market, prompting widespread concerns about the state of free speech in India. But after a period of twelve months, the book was republished under a different publisher.

  1.  

Dhundi

Yogesh Master

2013

Nationwide

Several Hindu organisations protested against this book and accused it to contain objectionable materials against god Ganesha.

  1.  

Meendezhum Pandiyar Varalaru

K. Senthil Mallar

2013

Tamil Nadu

It was alleged that certain contents in this book was abusive against other castes and in the nature of spreading hatred and disharmony. SO, the Madras HC ordered to make alterations in the book and lifted the forfeiture.3

  1.  

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India

Joseph Lelyveld

2011

Gujarat

It was interpreted and suggested in this biographical book that M.K. Gandhi was bisexual. Whereas according to the author the book only says that he was deeply attached to Kallenbach and did not explicitly stated that Gandhi was bisexual.4

  1.  

The Red Sari

Javier Moro

2010

Nationwide

Originally published in Spanish by the name ‘El Sari Rojo’, this book was alleged to be violating the privacy of a person for monetary gain. However, it was released in India in Jan, 2015 as it was not officially banned.

  1.  

Such a Long Journey

Rohinton Mistry

2010

Mumbai

Withdrawn by the Mumbai University from its Bachelor of Art (English) syllabus. The book allegedly contained anti-Shiv Sena passages and remarks derogatory to Maharastrians.5

  1.  

Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence

Jaswant Singh

2009

Gujarat

Banned for containing defamatory references to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.6

  1.  

The Life of Sri Aurobindo

Peter Heehs

2008

Nationwide

It was alleged that the book contains objectionable matters depicting distorted facts about the life and character of Sri Aurobindo. In 2004, a stay order was passed by the Odisha High Court on the release of the book.

  1.  

Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion

R.V. Bhasin

2007

Maharashtra

SC upheld the ban and said that the author had used insulting comments on Muslim community, which is an aggravated form of criticism and can hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.7

  1.  

The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown

2006

Nagaland

It was alleged that the novel could hurt the sentiments of the Christian beliefs. Ban was rejected by SC and several HCs .

  1.  

The True Furqan

Al Saffee & Al Mahdee

2005

Nationwide

Islamic groups declared the book as a Christian propaganda and claimed that it slyly mocked at Islam. Some even claimed it was a US-Israel pact to insult Islam.

Though it was essentially a Christian world versus Islam phenomenon, the Indian government took exception to it and banned its import.8

  1.  

Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India

James Laine

2004

Maharashtra

In 2004, this book was banned as it contained disparaging remarks about Chhatrapati Shivaji. But the ban was lifted in 2010 by the Supreme Court.9

  1.  

Lajja

Tasleema Nasreen

2003

West Bengal

Banned by the West Bengal government.10

  1.  

Dwikhandito

Taslima Nasreen

2003

West Bengal

Banned for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community. On 22nd September, 2005, the Calcutta High Court lifted the ban.11

  1.  

Five Past Midnight in Bhopal

Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro

2002

Nationwide

The book was banned after Swaraj Puri, the commissioner of Bhopal during that period, filed a defamation suit. Later, the ban was lifted by the Madhya Pradesh high court.12

  1.  

Bhavsagar Granth

Written by amost 30 authors under the direction of Baba Bhaniara

2001

Punjab

Banned by the Punjab government for hurting the religious feelings of Sikh community.13

  1.  

The Myth of the Holy Cow

Dwijendra Narayan Jha

2001

Nationwide

The book allegedly said that beef was eaten by ancient Indians. The author received anonymous threat calls and had to be provided a police escort.14

  1.  

Towards Freedom

Sumit Sarkar and K.N. Panikkar

2000

Nationwide

The publication of this book was temporarily withheld by the ICHR in 2000 because it portrayed Hindu Maha sabha in a bad light.

  1.  

The Moor’s Last Sigh

Salman Rushdie

1995

Nationwide

The Indian government placed a de facto ban on the novel, claiming that the fictional Ramar Fielding seemed to be a thinly veiled version of Bal Thackeray, one of India's most prominent Hindu nationalist politicians. But later in 1996, the ban was lifted by the Supreme Court.15

  1.  

Understanding Islam through Hadis

Ram Swarup

1991

Nationwide

It tackles the issues of political Islam. It was claimed that the book was offensive to Muslims.16

  1.  

Basava Vachana Deepti

Mate Mahadevi

1997

Nationwide

It was banned because she changed Basavanna’s pen name from ‘Kudalasangama Deva’ to ‘Linga Deva’.17

  1.  

Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada

Zuhair Kashmeri & Brian McAndrew

1989

Nationwide

The authors argue that Indian intelligence agencies, determined to discredit the Sikh bid for an independent state, penetrated not only Sikh communities but also the RCMP and CSIS. The book claims the government of India was involved in the plane's bombing.18

  1.  

The Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani

Hamish McDonald

1988

Mumbai

Unofficial biography of late Dhirubhai Ambani. Banned for being slanderous against the Ambani family. Never got published in India.19

  1.  

The Satanic Verses

Salman Rushdie

1988

Nationwide

Banned by Rajiv Gandhi’s government.

  1.  

Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim

Sunanda K. Dattaray

1984

Nationwide

The book dealt with India's annexation of Sikkim. The Delhi High Court had stopped its publication after a political officer station in Gangtok at the time filed a defamation suit. The book was later allowed for release.20

  1.  

The Price of Power: Kissinger and Nixon in the White House

Seymour Hersh

1983

Nationwide

Banned for suggesting that Morarji Desai was a CIA informant.21

  1.  

Who Killed Gandhi

Lourenco De Sadvandor

1979

Nationwide

Considered to be “poorly researched” and “inflammatory”.22

  1.  

India Independent

Charles Bettelheim

1976

Nationwide

Banned for criticizing the policies of the Indian government.23

  1.  

Nehru: A Political Biography

Michael Edwards

1975

Nationwide

Government considered grievous factual errors in this book.24

  1.  

Early Islam

Desmond Stewart

1975

Nationwide

The book purportedly contains grievous factual errors.25

  1.  

Man from Moscow

Greville Wynne

1970

Nationwide

The book was banned for purportedly misrepresenting Indian policies.26

  1.  

A Struggle between two lines over the question of How to deal with U.S. imperialism.

Fan Asid-Chu

1969

Nationwide

This book cannot be imported into India.

  1.  

The Jewel in the Lotus

Allen Edwardes

1968

Nationwide

Import prohibited absolutely.27

  1.  

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

D.H. Lawrence

1964

Nationwide

Banned on the grounds of obscenity.28

  1.  

An Area of Darkness

V.S. Naipaul

1964

Nationwide

Banned for its negative portrayal of India and its people.29

  1.  

Unarmed Victory

Bertrand Russell

1963

Nationwide

The book dealt with the Sino-Indian War which India lost.30

  1.  

Nepal

Toni Hagen

1963

Nationwide

Not much info. is available

  1.  

Ayesha

Kurt Frischler

1963

Nationwide

Cannot be imported into India.

  1.  

Nine Hours to Rama

Stanley Wolpert

1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nationwide ban

The book was thought to be justifying the actions of Nathuram Godse who murdered Gandhi.

  1.  

The Lotus and the Rama

Arthur Koestler

1960

Nationwide

Criticized the Indian democracy. It cannot be imported into India. Also, this book has often been criticized as ill-researched.32

  1.  

The Heart of India

Alexander Campbell

1959

Nationwide ban

The book is a fictionalized and humorous account of Indian bureaucracy and economic policy-making.

  1.  

Captive Kashmir

Aziz Beg

1958

 

Nationwide

This book cannot be imported into India.

  1.  

Rama Retold or The Ramayana (American edn.)

Aubrey Menen

1956

Nationwide

It was a play which was a spoof of The Ramayana.33

  1.  

Dark Urge

Robert W. Taylor

1955

Nationwide

This book cannot be imported into India.

  1.  

What has religion done for mankind

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

1955

Nationwide

This book tries to refute Eastern religions and cannot be imported into India.34

  1.  

Bhupat Singh

Kaluwank Ravatwank

1954

Nationwide

Not much info. is available

  1.  

Marka-e-Somnath

Maulana Muhammad Sadiq Hussain Sahab Sadiq Siddhiqui Sardanvi

1952

Nationwide

Written in Urdu, cannot be imported into India.35

  1.  

Chandramohini

Ansar Nasiri

1952

Nationwide

 

  1.  

Pakistan-Pasmanzarwa Peshmanzar

Hameed Anwar

 

 

 

1950

Nationwide

Originally written in Urdu, cannot be imported into India.36

  1.  

Cease-Fire

Agha Babar

1950

Nationwide

Originally written in Urdu, cannot be imported into India.

  1.  

Khak Aur Khoon

Naseem Hijazi

1950

Nationwide

This book portrays the true face of the Hindu fanaticism at the time of Independence when the Hindus tried to rob the Muslims who were trying to escape to Pakistan during the partition.

 

1http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/perumal-murugan-book-controversy-and-madras-high-court/article14476037.ece

2http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/destroy-defamatory-books-on-saints-court/

3http://www.livelaw.in/cannot-lift-one-community-demeaning-others-madras-hcfb-lifts-ban-two-tamil-books-alterations-read-order/

4https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/books/gandhi-biography-by-joseph-lelyveld-roils-india.html?pagewanted=all

5The Guardian, “Mumbai University drops Rohinton Mistry novel after extremists complain”, See: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/19/mumbai-university-removes-mistry-book, last accessed on May 17, 2018

6The Hindu, “You can’t read this book”, See: http://www.thehindu.com/books/you-cant-read-this-book/article2953626.ece, last accessed on May 17, 2018

7http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/Court-upholds-ban-on-book/article15957487.ece

8http://www.sify.com/news/Books-banned-Of-words-and-woes-imagegallery-2-National-ocorvLcjeci.html

9http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-supreme-court-upholds-lifting-of-ban-on-shivaji-book-1407570

10Scoop Woop, “10 Books that were banned in India for various reasons”, See: https://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/books-banned-in-india/#.sr5xttgtu, last accessed on May 17, 2018

11http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/taslima-nasreen-book-dwikhandito-once-banned-bengal-govt-now-in-english-118031100465_1.html

12http://www.caleidoscope.in/nostalgiphilia/banned-books-in-india

13http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1822/18220490.htm

14http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Ziya_Us_Salam/to-eat-or-not-to-eat/article7797190.ece

15https://www.deseretnews.com/article/477835/INDIA-REMOVES-ITS-BAN-ON-LATEST-RUSDIE-NOVEL.html

16https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Understanding%20Islam%20through%20Hadis

17https://www.livelaw.in/sc-upholds-ban-mate-mahadevis-book-even-agreed-right-interpret-religion/

18https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/danielle-crittenden/banned-books-week_b_984910.html

19The Economic Times, “Some books that met a ‘banned’ fate in India”, See: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/advertising-marketing/some-books-that-met-a-banned-fate-in-india/slideshow/30518943.cms, last accessed on May 17, 2018

20https://scroll.in/article/820287/why-this-book-on-indias-annexation-of-sikkim-needs-to-be-read-today

21The Times of India, “Top 10 banned books in India”, See: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/nine-hours-to-rama-by-stanley-wolpert/photostory/58144882.cms, last accessed on May 17, 2018

22 The Indian Express, “Who Killed Gandhi’: PIL in Bombay HC seeks revocation of ban on book”, See: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/who-killed-gandhi-pil-in-bombay-hc-seeks-revocation-of-ban-on-book-on-gandhis-assassination-5014992/, last accessed on May 17, 2018

23The Hindu, “You can’t read this book”, See: http://www.thehindu.com/books/you-cant-read-this-book/article2953626.ece, last accessed on May 17, 2018

24Business Standard, “Nilanjana S Roy: Banned books in India: 1970s-2006”, See: http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/nilanjana-s-roy-banned-books-in-india-1970s-2006-106053001122_1.html, last accessed on May 17, 2018.

25http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/nilanjana-s-roy-banned-books-in-india-1970s-2006-106053001122_1.htm

26https://www.storypick.com/india-banned-books/

27https://web.archive.org/web/20120921231147/http://www.chennaicustoms.gov.in/imports/part3.htm

28https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8066784/Lady-Chatterley-trial-50-years-on.-The-filthy-book-that-set-us-free-and-fettered-us-forever.html

29The Economic Times, “Some books that met a ‘banned’ fate in India”, See: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/advertising-marketing/some-books-that-met-a-banned-fate-in-india/slideshow/30518943.cms, last accessed on May 17, 2018

30https://topyaps.com/top-10-banned-books-in-india

31

32https://www.storypick.com/india-banned-books/

33https://scroll.in/article/817926/aubrey-menons-rama-retold-tells-us-to-laugh-at-the-ramayana-no-wonder-its-still-banned

34https://postcard.news/here-is-a-list-of-banned-books-in-india-for-various-reasons-why-are-these-banned/

35https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/banned-in-india-the-1930s-1960s-106052301151_1.html

36https://bobytg.blogspot.com/

All Posts | Nov 29,2018

Home Department, State of Rajasthan: No more Internet Shutdowns for prevention of cheating in examinations.

There has been a staggering increase in the number of Internet Shutdowns in India. In comparison to 2012 when India saw only three shutdowns over a year, in 2018, India has already observed 127 as of 28th November 2018 instances of Internet Shutdowns. While Internet shutdowns have become almost a standard state response during law and order situations in India, it is still highly unusual to see a shutdown being imposed to prevent cheating during examinations. That being said, we at SFLC.in have been maintaining an Internet Shutdowns tracker since 2012 and recording instances of Internet Shutdowns across India. As a result, we have observed that State of Rajasthan has ordered an Internet shutdown to prevent cheating during examinations on more than two occasions in 2018.

Thus, a Public Interest Litigation challenging orders that were promulgated to impose Internet Shutdowns in Rajasthan to prevent cheating in examinations was filed at the Jodhpur High Court, located in the State of Rajasthan. On 25th July 2018, the matter (CW 10304/2018) was listed and first heard by a division bench of Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur and Justice Dinesh Mehta.

The case was filed primarily to contest the validity of the State of Rajasthan’s action to issue orders to suspend Mobile Internet Services for conducting the Constable recruitment examination 2018. The petitioners, Advocates Nitin Goklani and Pravin Vyas, submitted that this action of the state was beyond the scope of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017. Petitioners argued that the orders to impose the Internet Shutdowns in order to prevent cheating in examination violated Article 19, fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Constitution of India. The Jodhpur High Court took cognizance of the said submission and issued notices to the State of Rajasthan, through its secretary of Home Department, Rajasthan and Divisional Comissioner, Jodhpur.

Home Department of Rajasthan submitted an additional affidavit stating that the suspension of Internet Services for conducting examinations does not fall in the ambit of ‘public safety’ or ‘public emergency’ as provided under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017. In the light of the said affidavit filed by the State of Rajasthan, a division bench comprising of Justice Sangeeta Lodha and Justice Dinesh Mehta disposed off the matter, on Wednesday, 28th November 2018.

 

 

All Posts | Sep 12,2018

RTI Applications to MP & UP about number of Internet Shutdowns: Dismissed & Returned

Governments across the world often impose Internet Shutdowns as a means to order blanket ban on Internet services in an area for a duration. These blanket bans are imposed for a variety of reasons ranging from prevention of spread of misinformation to prevention of cheating in examination.

We at SFLC.in have been tracking incidents of Internet shutdowns across India in an attempt to draw attention towards the number and frequency of shutdowns. This data is made publicly available in the form of an interactive Internet Shutdown Tracker hosted on our dedicated website www.internetshutdowns.in, which also features additional resources on the topic.

On the basis of our tracker, we can safely state that India has seen an alarming increase in the number and frequency of shutdowns. Whereas in 2012 we recorded only 3 shutdowns across India, while as of September 2018 we have already recorded 109 shutdowns in 9 months across the nation. Another notable takeaway is that India has witnessed the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the entire world.

At present, there is no obligation in India on Telecom Service Providers or State Home Departments to inform users about Internet Shutdowns. In the absence of any reliable means to gain access to Internet shutdown orders issued by various Government agents, most of the data collected by our tacker is based on media reports (online and print). We realize that relying solely on media reports is not a foolproof method of tracking shutdowns. With this in mind, when we launched a dedicated website for our Internet shutdowns project, we did so with a new citizen reportage mechanism, i.e. a mechanism that allows citizens to bring instances of shutdowns to our attention. We later expanded our citizen reportage tools to give people the ability to provide inputs on how shutdowns affected them and their communities. Nevertheless, most of the data recorded by our tracker continues to be secondary, which means that it is entirely possible for shutdowns that are not reported by the media or affected citizens to be absent from the tracker.

As per the Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017 – the current enabling legislation for Internet shutdowns – the ‘competent authority’ which may issue directions to suspend telecom services are: the Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Secretary to the State Government in-charge of the Home Department, in cases of Central Government or State Government respectively. In order to get a sense of the true extent of unreported shutdowns (if any), we filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 to various State Home Departments across India. The RTI Application was filed asking the following question among others:what is the exact number of Internet Shutdowns that were ordered in Rajasthan during 07.08.2017 to 01.05.2018?”. This time-frame was chosen because the Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017 was enacted on August 8, 2017, and there was a good chance that consolidated data on shutdowns imposed under the Rules would be available with Central and State Home Departments.

We received information from district level departments of Rajasthan in response to the RTI application filed by us. The responses received from the Rajasthan Government have been collated and the unreported shutdowns have been added on tracker. On the basis of those responses, we found that there were at least 26 unreported instances of Internet shutdowns in Rajasthan alone during the eight-odd months in question. In July we published a detailed blogpost about the responses from Rajasthan to our RTI applications.

However, we have not received required information from every state. Some states, including Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, have dismissed and returned our applications. The Home Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh dismissed our application stating that the Information that has been requested through the RTI application falls within the ambit of Home Department C Wing which has been exempted from the RTI responses vide Notification No. F. 11-39-2005-I-9-RTI. On the other hand, the Home Department of Uttar Pradesh replied stating that our application had been forwarded to Police Head Office of Lucknow, UP to furnish the details in question to us. The Police Department returned the application submitting that the information sought requires technical support which they lack, therefore they will be unable to provide us the required information.

Scanned copies of responses that we have received as replies from the RTI applications filed in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh:

All Posts | Aug 27,2018

Panel Discussion at APrIGF 18: Internet Restrictions in Asia Pacific Region and How to Mitigate.

The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), 2018 was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 13th to 16th August.

Each year, the APrIGF serves as a multistakeholder platform for discussion, exchange and collaboration at a regional level and also where possible, to aggregate national IGF discussions that ultimately advance the Internet governance development in the Asia Pacific region.

This year, on the Day 3, 16th August 2018 Mr. Maheeshwara Kirindigoda (ISOC Sri Lanka) organized a panel discussion titled “Internet Restrictions in Asia Pacific Region and How to Mitigate.” The Panel constituted Mr. Maheeshwara Kirindigoda (ISOC Sri Lanka), Mr. Waqas Hassan (PTA, ISOC Islamabad), Mr. Shreedeep Rayamajhi (ICANN, ICT4D, Rayznews) and Ms. Tripti Jain (SFLC.in). The discussion was moderated by Mr. Rajnesh Singh (APrIGF, ISOC Asia Pacific)

The panelists for the session focused on three main issues:

  • How Internet Restrictions or Shutdowns have become a Global concern?;

  • Why is the Government resorting to the idea of Internet Shutdown; and

  • What are the effective ways to mitigate the issues/reasons for shutdowns instead of resorting to such shutdowns?

Mr. Rajnesh Singh began with an introduction to the issue of Internet restrictions or shutdowns and how these order for bans affect people globally. He then went on to cite various instances of shutdowns across the globe highlighting concerns arising from these impositions. He also brought to notice that Access to Information & Communication Technology is a Human Right, sanctioned through ITU by United Nations. In this sense, Internet shutdown result in a denial of human rights.

Tripti Jain (SFLC.in) shared experiences from India with respect to Internet Shutdowns. She emphasized that India has seen the highest number of Internet Shutdowns in the world. She then mentioned that SFLC.in has been recording shutdowns since 2012. SFLC.in has recorded 375 instances of Internet shutdowns so far on their tracker, located at https://internetshutdowns.in/. She then highlighted that the numbers from their tracker may not be accurate because it is based primarily on information from secondary sources, i.e newspapers and reports from individuals. Therefore, the tracker fails to take into account many unreported instances of Internet shutdowns. She also discussed the failure of government and the private sector to record and report report instances of Internet Shutdowns in India. She mentioned SFLC.in’s research and stated that we have filed an RTI (Right to Information Application) this summer to the Home Department of Rajasthan (a large state in India) as a result of which we found that there have been over 26 instances of Internet Shutdowns in 8 months that were not reported by newspapers. She discussed the procedural and executive concerns regarding legal provisions to impose Internet Shutdowns in India.

Mr Waqas Hassan discussed about the scenario in Pakistan with respect to Internet Shutdowns/ Restrictions. Mr. Hassan was representing the Government on the Panel and from his experience, he stated that one must always amicably engage with the government in order to reach a desired consensus. He also highlighted that over the years Pakistan has seen positive changes and that there has been a considerable decrease in the number of shutdowns ordered, however there's still a long way to go. While talking about restrictions on the Internet, he mentioned about the Judicial stances during the times of spread of misinformation.

Mr. Maheeshwara dealt with concerns of Sri Lanka along with the rest of the world with respect to the issue of Internet restrictions. He emphasized upon the reasons behind such orders. He cited various occasions on which Internet shutdowns were imposed across various parts of the world. He identified that Governments across the world have claimed national security as the primary reason to impose Internet shutdowns. He also discussed how most shutdowns are politically driven.

Mr. Shreedeep discussed his concerns with increasing number of Internet shutdowns in India and across the globe. He also stressed upon the economic impact of these shutdowns.

Key Takeaways:

  • Internet Shutdowns have become a global concern in today’s digital age with a rapidly rising number of shutdowns across various nations.

  • Governments of the world often claim national security as the primary reason to push the kill switch, however in various nations including India, Internet shutdowns are often ordered for frivolous reasons such as prevention of cheating during examinations.

  • It has also been observed that Internet Service Providers and websites often attempt to notify their users before restricting access for maintenance of their networks. However, when Governments order shutdowns, there is often no prior notice.

  • The ripple effects of orders to impose an Internet shutdown are very severe. It leads to economic loss, lives are at risk during riots and disasters, it hampers education and affects healthcare, and the ability to exercise one’s rights such as free speech is hampered, among others.

  • There is a need to study the effectiveness of Internet Shutdowns to ensure national security viz-a-viz economic loss ensued by the state in the process.

All Posts | Aug 09,2018

Parliament ’s last opportunity to Modify/Annul Telecom Suspension Rules 2017?

Prior to the notification of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services, Internet shutdowns were ordered under two statutes i.e Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC) and Indian Telegraph Act 1885. The situation changed after the promulgation of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 (hereinafter, the Telecom Suspension Rules) by the Ministry of Communications, on August 7th, 2017. These Rules conferred powers upon competent Government authorities to order blanket network outages in districts and states of India,these Rules are the only directions to suspend telecom services in India.

According to these Rules, directions to suspend telecom services shall not be issued except by an order made by a ‘competent authority’. Thus, according to Rule 2(1) the directions to suspend the telecom services shall be made only under these Rules and according to the procedure mentioned therein. This also implies that directions for suspension of telecom services, consequently network shutdowns, may not be ordered under any other provision of law, including Section 144 of CrPC 1973.

Though, these Rules lay down an elaborate procedure to suspend telecom services, there are still several areas of concern.

Firstly, these Rules were drafted by the Executive without any public consultation. When Rajya Sabha MP. Mr Husain Dalwai questioned the Government in the Parliament about the consultation process that was undertaken in finalizing these Rules, the Government responded saying that there was a consultation with the Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology and NITI Aayog. This implies that there was no public consultation. Not only there was a lack of public consultation, there was no consultation with the state governments as well. Despite the fact that Internet Shutdown orders are imposed to maintain law and order in states and the fact that Public order and Police are mentioned as items under State list as per Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India, none of the states were consulted in the formulation of these rules.

Secondly, the Rules allow suspension of Telecom services during a public emergency or in the interest of public safety. While the terms “public emergency” and “public safety”, at least one of which must be present to issue an Internet shutdown order, are not defined under the Telegraph Act or any other law, they were interpreted by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India[fn]AIR 1997 SC 568[/fn] to mean "the prevalence of a sudden condition or state of affairs affecting the people at large calling for immediate action", and "the state or condition of freedom from danger or risk for the people at large" respectively. Even with the Supreme Court’s guidance, these terms remain open to broad interpretation by the Government, and there is no objective standard to determine if a given situation qualifies as a public emergency or threatens public safety.

Thirdly the Rules provide that the oversight of telecom suspension is to be carried out by a single Review Committee, which comprises entirely of the members of the Executive. This severely compromises the independence and impartiality due to apparent conflict of interest when the authorization, conduct and review is carried out by a single arm of Government machinery. The public oversight principle is therefore not complied with.

Fourthly, there is a concern with respect to implementation of these Rules. We discovered this when we filed an application under Right to Information Act 2005 to the Rajasthan Home Department in April 2018, asking the following question among others:what is the exact number of Internet Shutdowns that were ordered in Rajasthan during 07.08.2017 to 01.05.2018?”. We received a response from the Home Department stating that our applications had been forwarded to various district-level departments, and that we would be receiving the requested information from those departments. We received responses from various district Police Commissioners and District Magistrates, instead of Secretary of the Rajasthan Home Department. This implies that the Internet shutdown orders are being issued by the District Magistrates and District Police Commissioners in spite of the Rules being in force.

Fifthly, the Central and State Review Committees established by the Rules are meant to prevent overbroad interpretations of the Act, the efficacy of this review process is entirely questionable as the Committees are required to convene only within five working days of the issue of Internet shutdown orders, by which time most shutdowns would already have been imposed and lifted. Even if the Committee were to determine in such a situation that an Internet shutdown was wrongfully imposed, the damage would already have been done, rendering the finding moot.

Lastly, the new Rules also fail to accommodate the principle of transparency. There is no provision under the Rules which provide for notification of shutdowns in press or official gazettes. Considering that TSPs offering Internet services in the country do not consistently issue notifications before shutdowns are imposed, users in affected areas are often caught unaware and have little to no time to make arrangements to mitigate the impact of shutdowns.

This concludes that though these Rules are better than the archaic provision of Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a provision of law which was clearly not designed to oversee State actions like Internet shutdowns. But at the same time, these rules continue to sustain various flaws that need to be addressed.

A Rajya Sabha MP, Mr. Husain Dalwai, introduced a statutory motion asking for annulment of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 (hereinafter, the Telecom Suspension Rules) on July 31st 2018 in the Rajya Sabha. Though the motion has been admitted in the Rajya Sabha, it has not been listed in the list of business of the Rajya Sabha yet. There are only two days before the end of this monsoon session and these days are the last two days for a discussion on this motion.

At the end of every session of Rajya Sabha, the Secretariat publishes a list of Statutory Rules and Orders made under the delegated powers of legislation, laid on the Table of the Rajya Sabha during that session and the period during which modification can be made in those rules and orders.[fn]Chapter 26, Rajya Sabha at Work, List of Statutory Orders laid during a session, Page no. 794(23 of 59) https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/rsat_work/archive/chapter-26.pdf [/fn]

Similarly, after introduction of Telecom Suspension Rules 2017, the Secretariat on Tuesday, December 26, 2017, after the end of Winter session 2017, issued a bulletin stating that The Telecom Suspension Rules made under the delegated powers of legislation and published in the Gazette were laid on the Table of the Rajya Sabha during the week ending December 15, 2017. The Orders will be laid on the Table for a period of 30 days, which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions. Members can move a motion for modification/annulment before the expiry of the session, immediately, following the session in which the laying period of 30 days is completed.[fn]Section 7, Indian Telegraph Act 1885, Power to make rules for the conduct of telegraphs: Subsection 11 Clause (5) states, “[Every rule made under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before each House of Parliament while it is in session for a total period of thirty days [which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and it, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid] both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.]"[/fn] The Rules were laid in Winter Session that convened on 15th December 2017 and ended on 5th January 2018 which means 22 days and 14 sittings in Rajya Sabha. As per the bulletin the period of 30 days for tabling a statutory order continued in the budget session. Therefore, the end of this session would mark an end to the opportunity for the Parliament to modify / annul these Rules.

Thus, noting the emergency of the situation, it is important for the Business Advisory Committee of Rajya Sabha [ a Committee that recommends the time that should be allocated for the discussion of the stage or stages of such Government Bills and other business as the Chairman in consultation with the Leader of the House may direct for being referred to the Committee.] If no time is allotted to the motion in concern, this motion will lapse and these Rules can no longer be challenged in Parliament.

 

 

All Posts | Jul 14,2018

RTI reply from Rajasthan Home Department reveals 26 unreported Internet Shutdowns

We at SFLC.in have been tracking incidents of Internet shutdowns across India in an attempt to draw attention towards the number and frequency of shutdowns, which are imposed for reasons ranging from curbing unrest to preventing cheating during examinations. This data is made publicly available in the form of an interactive Internet Shutdown Tracker hosted on our dedicated website www.internetshutdowns.in, which also features additional resources on the topic. (more…)