Weekend Reads for the month of May, 2012

In these posts (tagged as “weekend reads”) I will summarize the legal developments on law and technology in India which I pick up along the way. I will try to do this one once a month, when I get time. So this means like this time, I can even drop it in the middle of the month.

Do send in links to us if you feel we have missed something.

The objective is to keep up to date and suggest good readings in this sector and not to report real time news. Do give your suggestions for improving it and whether you find it useful.

1. India’s proposal to the UN on establishing a Committee for Internet Related Policies

In October 2011, India proposed the establishment of a United Nation Committee for Internet-Related Policies (UNCRP) [available here]. This proposal is slated to come up for discussion later this week in Geneva [Hindu Reports].The proposal, if accepted will shift the present administration of the internet from ICANN to the UNCRP [Internet Governance Project].

Critics fear this will shift the present system of a multi-stakeholder model to one where governments will have primacy [lessig on the proposal]. However some say that at this stage the fear is misplaced [Medianama interviewing Pranesh Prakash from CIS]. Recently IT for Change has released a joint statement on the concerns of civil society on this consultation [link] and Rajya Sabha MP Mr. R. Chandrashekhar has written to the Prime Minister asking for its withdrawal [PDF link to his letter].

2. Motion to annul the IT Rules

Ever since the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines), 2011 [link to the rules] were passed there was considerable talk of them being contrary to our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression [read the PRS legislative summary on them here; SLFC’s analysis of the Rules].

Due to the effort of certain internet advocacy groups such as CIS and SLFC.in, an annulment motion has been moved to them in the Rajya Sabha which first got listed on Friday, May 11, 2012 where due to disruptions on an allegedly objectionable cartoon on B.R. Ambedkar the house was adjourned for the day and the discussion could not take place [link].

Thereafter the motion was again listed on Thursday, May 17, 2012 for discussion [link]. Mr. Arun Jaitley made a speach critsing the rules and much of the opposition parties followed. [Video of Arun Jaitley’s speech, Uncorrected transcripts of the debate morning, afternoon, evening]. However in the end the annulment motion was defeated by a voice vote with an undertaking by Mr. Kapil Sibal that the government will work to evolve a consensus on the Intermediary Rules [Legally India Reports].

In connection with this, some have even proposed systematic processes to ensure third party deliberation and oversight of subordinate legislation [Nick Robinson’s article, The red-tape rules in Business Standard]. Having seen the inefficient manner in which subordinate legislation is almost never debated and then is deemed to be approved by parliament, this is an eminently sensible suggestion.

3. Injunctions and Blocks

This month the Delhi High Court has passed two injunctions making reference to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 [link to the rules]. Curiously both cases concern god men, with the first one being passed in favor of Nirmal Baba and the second one being issued in favor of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [Nirmal Baba Link | Sri Sri Ravi Shankar link]. Both cases concern allegations of defamation and both make blogging platforms as parties to the litigations.

Beyond the take down injunctions, the trickle of John Doe orders has now become a flood. Medianama reports that a John Doe order from the Madras High Court granted to Copyright Labs, Chennai has resulted in widespread blocks on file sharing websites on several major ISP’s including Airtel and Reliance. This also includes vimeo. Some digging up has shown that the case in which the order was passed is titled as Creative Commercials v. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited — case number 358/2012, though others state it is another case in the Madras High Court. We have written a long blog post on the who dunnit [ILTB Post :ashok kumar is a habitual offender] and also called for filing of RTI’s with the DoT to ensure it was not a rogue executive order which wrecked havok [ILTB Post: Why a RTI will be more effective than taking down government websites]

4. Privacy watch

Ont the privacy front, there is some activity regarding the revival of the DNA profiling bill [Saikat Dutta in DNA reports]. A 2007 version of the bill is publicly available [PDF Click here] on which CIS has done extensive analysis [Click here].

Medianama also reports that the Indian government has written to various ISP’s asking them to implement capabilities for real time interception of VOIP communications [Read here]. There also seems to be some discord between the NTRO and the NIC with regard to the alleged hacking of thousands of government email ids for which a joint intelligence committee meeting has been called [Mint Report].

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