2013- A New Year Wishlist # Humor


 

 

My New Year Wish List For 2013

By Satya Sagar

30 December, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Here are some things I fervently wish will happen in the coming year.

1. Scientists find a way to render in an instant every real or wannabe rapist (including scientists) permanently impotent.

2. All policemen are put away in prison and the inmates put in their uniforms to improve the law and order situation.

3. A fisherwoman is appointed Chairperson of the Department of Atomic Energy and the Koodamkulam nuclear reactor is turned into an aquarium.

4. Manmohan and Montek Singh finally become eligible for pension from the United States government and migrate leaving the people of India in peace.

5. Rahul Gandhi finally becomes Prime Minister, of Robert Vadra’s real estate.

6. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s knees finally get better while Narendra Modi’s get worse.

7. The Sheikhs of Saudi Arabia are overthrown by their people after it is found they are aliens with petrol instead of blood in their veins.

8. Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coterie flee Sri Lanka and seek asylum in the Congo and the company of the many genocide artists there.

9. Vladimir Putin tries to impress the Russian people by shooting off alone into space in a rocket, with enough fuel to reach Mars but not return to Earth.

10. Barack Obama undergoes plastic surgery and becomes a white man. Since he is no different from earlier US Presidents why pretend to be Black?

11. China and Japan decide to stop fighting over ownership of a tiny, insignificant islandand instead jointly take over the United States.

12. All those who predicted Apocalypse in December 2012 have their property confiscated and distributed to the poorest of those who didn’t believe their prophecy.

Happy New Year!

Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and public health worker based in New Delhi. He is also an associate editor at countercurrents.org. He can be reached atsagarnama@gmail.com

 

#India- Here is why section #66A does not ‘protect’ women #FOE #Censorship


by  , FIRSTPOST Dec 12, 2012

One of the arguments Union Minister for Communication, Information and Technology, Kapil Sibal, often gives to justify Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act is that it is an essential tool in fighting the online harassment of women. “Many kinds of threats can be given on the Internet which cannot be given on a normal communication network. Therefore, the nature of the law has to be different,” reiterated the minister in an interview to NDTV in November 2012.

Online harassment is indeed a serious problem for women. In April this year, for instance, Chennai based writer and activist Meena Kandasamy found herself at the receiving end of sexually charged verbal abuse and threats of violence in response to a 15 April tweet, which said: “Was at the Osmania university beef eating festival. Awesome experience in spite of violence by ABVP.”

In reactionary tweets, totaling more than a hundred, she was called a variety of names including “bitch,” “whore,” and “terrorist.”

“Bloody bitch, u shud be gang raped and telecasted live. That will be awesome experience (sic),” was an example of one such tweet by @sidhh 108.

In October, singer Chinmayi Sripada lodged a complaint with Chennai police that she was getting casteist and vulgar comments about both her and her mother from six twitter handles. “Most of my tweets were misquoted to give a feeling that I am against Tamil, Tamil Tweeters and bloggers and also against Sri Lankan Tamils. Some even started tagging me on Facebook,” Sripada told The Hindu.

This threatening online environment is an extension of real life in terms of the attitude towards the fairer sex. “Just like in real life, women are expected not to comment online about political issues or anything which needs application of the brain. Signs of struggle of power between two genders are very much visible online,” says Vidyut Kale, a Mumbai based blogger, who has received cuss words, rape and death threats. “By the way, education has got nothing to with it,” she adds.

Reuters

While the Internet can be a hostile place for both sexes, women face additional sexist abuse in a way that men do not. “Trans people who have written both as male and female bloggers, for example, have reported a sharp difference between the two in terms of the abuse they received, and the way in which attacks became more personalised and gender-based after blogging as a woman. There certainly is a trend here,” says Dr Anja Kovacs of the Internet Democracy Project, a Delhi based initiative for online freedom of speech which is conducting a study on online harassment.

However, Sibal is wrong to cite online abuse of women as a justification for section 66A of IT Act, which advocates of online freedom of speech claim is a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Moreover, when section 66A was inserted into the IT Act in 2008, the purpose was not to safeguard women from abuse or stalking. According to Kiran Karnik, former president of NASSCOM and member of the expert committee which suggested changes in the IT Act, the amendments proposed by the expert committee were benign, but the Parliamentary standing committee made the law much tighter in its over-enthusiasm.

“Things were added on the pretext of taking care of spam, defamation and that gave huge power to security agencies,” Karnik told NDTV.

Thus, Kapil Sibal’s ‘protect our women’ argument is a post facto and expedient rationale for the amendments.

The argument is also not based on any kind of supporting evidence, and for one simple reason: the government does not maintain any data on the number of complaints filed by women under section 66A.

Except for the case of Chinmayi Sripada — where the police took action against two men allegedly harassing her — there are few other known cases where a woman has taken recourse to section 66A to fight cyber abuse.

In stark contrast, there are many cases illustrating the misuse of 66A: the arrests of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for lampooning national symbols on his website and Professor of Jatavpur university for mocking Mamata Banerjee on Facebook, the detention of a Puducherry businessman for tweeting that Karti Chidambaram has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and the infamous Palghar case where two girls were arrested under section 66A because they believed that the death of Bal Thackeray did not call for a city-wide bandh.

“After the Shaheen Dada and Rinu Srinivasan case, we know it [66A] is not protecting women, it is jailing some of them who speak. I doubt if anyone who is flaunting Hindutva and threatening gang rape and butchering or calling for a Hindu style fatwa on a writer is going to be going to jail anytime soon,” says Kandasamy.

Therefore, even if we take into consideration Sibal’s argument that Internet is a different beast which wields much more power than traditional media and hence we need a separate law, 66A is so vaguely worded that it can be used at will — not to protect women but to punish those who speak out. If the intent is to crack down on online abuse, then the law has to be sharply and
narrowly defined, and in a way that it does not infringe on the freedom of speech.

Besides, there are many provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with similar offences against women, points out Delhi based lawyer Apar Gupta. “IPC Section 509 deals with words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman. This can be invoked in cases of online abuse of women as well.”

Other parts of penal law may apply as well, including section 499 which deals with defamation, sections 503 which deals with criminal intimidation and and 507 which addresses criminal intimidation via an anonymous communication.

“I think the only space that has any semblance of the free media is the Internet. Section 66A is the only way they are going to go about silencing people who speak their mind. This protecting woman is such a nice facade,” concludes Kandasamy.

Khap panchayats oppose marriage in same gotra to control landholdings #Vaw #Honorkillings


Dictated by land
Author(s): Richard Mahapatra, down to earth
Date: Nov 30, 2012

It was a season of sons-in-law in Haryana. In October, the
Congress-ruled state government scrambled to clean its records in the
face of alleged undue favours to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the party
president Sonia Gandhi. That month, khap panchayats, or the
traditional caste panchayats notorious for their diktats in the name
of honouring social customs, also grabbed headlines. They wanted to
regulate the selection of sons-in-law as per their archaic beliefs. On
October 29, leaders of 29 khaps met in Rohtak and demanded banning
same-gotra, same-village marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act.

These seemingly unrelated developments have common roots—land. That
Haryana’s land has turned rare earth is no news. But its repercussion
on society is what the world is discovering now. Vadra, though not a
resident son-in-law, reportedly made windfall gains from land deals in
the state. Analysts say khaps now do not want their resident
sons-in-law to take away the newfound gold. Their obvious targets are
daughters and laws that allow them legal share in ancestral property.

Khaps largely exercise their authority over the Jat community of big
landholders around Delhi, including some districts of Haryana, Uttar
Pradesh and Rajasthan. Traditionally, in these areas marriage is not
allowed within the gotra, which loosely means a sub-caste or clan. But
khaps extend this prohibition to all inhabitants of a village and its
adjacent villages, including individuals from different gotras.
According to khaps, they are deemed siblings due to proximity of
residence and are bound by bhaichara or brotherhood. Strangely, their
diktats apply only to women.

They do not oppose men marrying in same gotras or other castes.
Perhaps they cannot afford to do it. In Haryana’s six
districts—Jhajjar, Rohtak, Jind, Panipat, Gurgaon and Sonipat—where
khaps are active, sex ratio is the lowest in the country: there are
850-870 females per 1,000 males. Such is the scarcity of eligible
brides in the state that men now “buy” brides from faraway Odisha,
Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Nepal. According to sociologist Ravinder
Kaur, 37 per cent of eligible men remain bachelor in the state.

Analysts say such woman-centric codes on marriage are to control the
family’s ownership over land (see ‘Khap panchayat’s codes…’). Khap
members have an instilled fear that in case of marriage by choice, the
girl or her husband would stake claim in ancestral property. By
declaring girls and boys of the same village and adjacent villages as
siblings, they lessen the possibility of young individuals getting
into matrimonial alliance. Experience shows, in an arranged marriage,
girls do not demand share in parental property. Moreover, if a girl is
married several villages away, the possibility of her exercising
inheritance rights becomes remote. They also oppose marriage between
majority and minority gotras as the majority gotra administers a
village and owns most of the land.

Khap panchayat’s codes on marriage

Not in same gotra: By banning same gotra marriage in a village, khaps
ensure that married women do not exercise their inheritance rights on
parental property
Not in bhaichara: Khaps then extend the diktat to several adjacent
villages by declaring boys and girls from those villages siblings and
ruling out marriage alliance among them
Not between majority and minority gotras: By not allowing girls from
majority gotra to marry into a minority gotra, the diktat protects
land of majority gotras who own maximum land in a village.

According to a study by the International Institute for Population
Sciences, Mumbai, the status of women in the family is worsening with
changing economic structure, reforms and mode of production. This is
more so in the National Capital Region (NCR) where the impact of
economic reforms was first felt. Explains Perianayagam Arokiasamy, who
did the study, “Usually larger landholdings are associated with less
autonomy for women.”

Women rights activist Jagmati Sangwan says khaps create false
impression that they are opposed to same-gotra marriage because it is
incestuous. They actually oppose the woman’s right to choose a life
partner. A study commissioned by the National Commission of Women
found that 72 per cent of the khap-dictated honour killings were
related to inter-caste marriages, while those related to same-gotra
marriages were only three per cent. “As couples are selectively
targeted, it is clear that the real motive of khap panchayats is to
control women’s sexuality to ensure that property remains within the
patriarchal caste domain,” Sangwan adds.

Small wonder khaps have lately been vocal about the two pieces of
legislation that allow a woman to marry as per her choice and secure
her rights over ancestral property: the Hindu Marriage Act and the
Hindu Succession Act. The marriage law does not recognise the gotra or
caste system and thus does not prohibit marriage within the gotra or
in other caste. The Hindu Succession Act, amended in 2005, gives
daughters equal rights in the ancestral property along with sons. It
also gives her the right to seek partition of the dwelling house she
inherits. The previous law gave daughters an equal right only in
self-acquired property of her father and a partial right in ancestral
property. It restricted her right in a dwelling house, in which the
joint family lived. The amendment in 2005 also deleted a section,
which exempted Land Reforms Act, Land Ceiling Act and laws relating to
devolution of tenancies in agricultural land, from the Hindu
Succession Act. These state laws favoured male lineal descendants over
wives and daughters.

Down To Earth spoke to a dozen khap panchayat members in Haryana about
the Hindu Succession Act. None was willing to speak on record, but
said the debate on sharing landholdings with married daughters has
gained momentum since the amendment in 2005. The first such meeting
took place in Rohtak in July 2005, which was attended by 21 khap
panchayats. “The law allows daughters to have rights over property of
their parents, in-laws and also retain individual property. Why does
one need to give so many rights to women?” asks Meher Singh Jhakar,
general secretary of Jhakar Khap, which exercises its authority over
36 villages in Jhajjar district in Haryana. “The new generation has
new expectations that confront the traditional ways. If constitution
of the UK can accept conventions as key provisions why can’t the khap
principles be accepted here?”

Obsession with land

Jats, the way we see them now, as big landholders, are the creation of
centuries of fight over land (see ‘Nomads to landlords’). They opposed
the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 over and again and used political
leadership to prevent fragmentation of their land.

In 1967, within months of its formation as a new state, Haryana passed
a resolution, requesting the Centre to amend the Act. Punjab followed
suit. The Centre did not oblige. In 1979, the Haryana Assembly passed
a bill, amending the Act unilaterally, and sent it for the President’s
approval. The President did not give his assent. Ten years later in
1989, renowned farmers’ leader from Haryana, Chaudhary Devi Lal,
proposed an amendment to the Act during his tenure as the deputy prime
minister. The demand was dropped following protests.

Haryana and five other states, including Punjab and Rajasthan, which
have active khaps, denied equal inheritance rights for women in
parental property, especially in agricultural land, until the 2005
amendment to the Succession Act.

Going by media reports, khap panchyats did not issue militant diktats
against women until 2005. This is the time the NCR witnessed a boom in
property rate and became the country’s largest residential market.
Currently, it has more housing units than the combined tally of
Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad. But since their
opposition to the succession law did not work out, khap panchayats now
focus on the Hindu Marriage Act to bring in provisions to stop
same-gotra marriage to retain land within the family boundary.

Nomads to landlords

Nomads to landlords Once a nomadic pastoral community, Jats settled in
Jhajjar, Rohtak, Jind, Panipat, Gurgaon and Sonipat districts of
Haryana in the early 13th century. Then the land was barren. The
Mamluk, Khilji, Tughlaq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties that ruled Delhi
during the period introduced rahat, or Persian wheel system of
irrigation, in the area.

This fuelled green revolution and transformed Jat pastoralists into
agricultural peasants. Agriculture in the region became more lucrative
after Muhammand Bin Tughlaq constructed the Western Yamuna Canal. With
this newfound prosperity, Jats organised themselves into a powerful
clan, seeding the khap panchayat concept.

Soon they became the rulers’ revenue collectors and colonised more
land. It is said that Akbar elevated some khap members to the status
of ministers to integrate the Jat community into his empire

 

Bangalore-Protest Against Section 66A to protect #FOE #FOS @2Dec


Inline image 1

Cyberzens click in protest, demand review of law

DEEPA KURUP, The Hindu
The internet, like the real world, is a much divided space. So when a controversial leader like Bal Thackeray dies, there are condolence messages and tributes, hot discussions on his legacy and criticism of what he stood for.

But all this made way for a near-united voice that condemned the arrests of two girls from Mumbai, who were arrested under Section 66A of the IT Act for an innocuous message posted on Facebook expressing casually a reaction to the city being shut down “in mourning”.

Collective angst

Perceived as an affront on freedom of speech on the internet, netizens everywhere spoke up against the authorities’ attempts to stifle dissent. In 120 characters, short status messages, casual cartoons, mash-ups and memes, netizens expressed their angst.

Gautam John, a popular Twitter-zen and lawyer, says he was “horrified” by the extent of the overreach by the police and its “misplaced priorities in dealing with the Facebook status update (which caused no physical violence) over the ransacking of the clinic (which was physical violence).” There was a complete lack of application of mind in choosing to apply Section 66A of the IT Act, a legislation he describes as a “world of trouble”.

Online petition

Mr. John has started an online petition on change.org, titled Amend Section 66A and Relook at the Internet Laws: Protect our ‘freedomofspeech’, where he points all recent incidents where Section 66A was used against netizens.

“It’s hard to [mistake] incompetence for malafide intentions. While I’m willing to give the legislature the benefit of doubt in the normal course, it is much harder to do so in this case. Especially when one looks at how Section 66A came to embody its current form,” he says.

Senthil S., IT professional and a member of the Free Software Movement of Karnataka, agrees. “It’s time for us to ask and push for a complete review of this legislation. Politicians and their cronies now seem to hate any voice of dissent. And because we’re not liquor barons, real estate rajas, mining mafias or media bosses, it appears that ordinary men and women — be it professors, students or artists — can be jailed for just having an opinion,” he says.

The FSMK had earlier organised offline protests in the city following the arrest of the West Bengal professor for emailing a cartoon, and plans to hold protests in the first week of December urging a review of the law.

Triggering fear

Cherian Tinu Abraham, social media enthusiast and an active Wikipedia editor, says that though people have spoken up against this, the Mumbai arrests triggered fear among those who share their opinions on social media.

His parents and in-laws, he says, called him the next day to tell him to be careful of what he posts and implored him to not share “strong opinions”.

He feels the government and the police have been unfair as the opinion shared was “fairly neutral”, and “with no intent to incite tensions”.

He points out that the arrest of the man who tweeted about Finance Minister Chidambaram’s son, comparing him and his “amassed wealth” to Robert Vadra, was also unfair. Funnily enough, after the man’s arrest, his number of followers on Twitter went from fewer than 20 to over 2,500 now, he said.

Keywords: IT Act, Section 66A, freedom of speech, social media, cyberzens

 

People under surveillance, Privacy law for whom ?


November 5, 2012
by Ranjit Sur, sanhati.com
India is probably heading for enactment of an Individual Privacy Law. On 16 October, the fourteen member committee headed by Justice(Rtd) A P Shah submitted its report to the Planning Commission, which had initiated the process by forming this committee. In its 90 page report, the committee tried to address the complexities of the issue. Justice Shah in his forwarding letter wrote, “So we can expect an initiative for enactment of the law soon”. At the same time, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed his desire to have such a law while expressing his concern for misuse of RTI act by “frivolous and vexatious use of the Act”. “The citizens’ right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy. The issue of a separate legislation on privacy is under consideration of an expert group under Justice AP Shah.” He said this while addressing a convention of Information Commissioners recently.
The day Manmohan Singh’s speech was reported, the New Delhi edition of The Hindu published an interesting report with the heading “10,000 phones, 1,000 e-mail IDs under the scanner” . The report informed, “Today, various law enforcement agencies are tapping almost 10,000 phones across India, while over 1,000 e-mail accounts are under the scanner, after clearance from the union Home Secretary. …In August this year, the maximum number of phones were being tapped by the Intelligence Bureau (5,966) of which 2,135 were fresh interceptions, while 3,831 were in continuation. Similarly, the State Intelligence units were tapping 1,104 phones (577 fresh and 527 in continuation) followed by the Andhra Pradesh Police with 863 phone interceptions (399 fresh and 464 in continuation) and the Delhi Police with 757 phones (738 fresh and 19 in continuation). ………. In the case of e-mails, the IB was snooping on 1,043 IDs in August — 460 under fresh sanction and 583 in continuation, while the State Intelligence units were tracking 136 (94 fresh and 42 in continuation); the DRI took permission from the Union Home Secretary to track 5 accounts….. Notably, to avoid any leaks, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping telephone operators in the loop. Called the “Central Monitoring System”, its trials are currently on and the system is likely to be in place early next year.”
So it is clear that the Government of India is tapping and hacking hundreds and thousands of phones and emails; thus violating individual privacy of hundreds and thousands of citizens. It is known to all that the unofficial figures of tapped-phones/hacked-emails are perhaps much higher than what The Hindu reported. Almost all the State Governments tap phones of innumerable opposition leader and activists. Even the Chief Minister of Bengal Ms Mamata Banerjee recently complained that her phone was being tapped by the Central Government. Hundreds of activists in Bengal paradoxically also complain of their phone being tapped by WB Government. So the question is, for whom the privacy law will be enacted?
In August 2011, Mr. Milind Deora, the Central Minister of State for Communication in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha, informed that the Central Government has started full surveillance of Facebook and Twitter walls and friend circles. All the comments, write-ups on walls are under full scanner of investigative agencies. Not only that, the Government has acquired technology to block and monitor websites and blogs, locally and centrally. On many occasions, The Hoot has reported many such misdeeds of the government. Recently Facebook, Twitter and You Tube were blocked in Jammu and Kashmir. Sites of cartoonist Asim Trivedi and Kamayani Bali were also blocked. Section 66(A) of the IT ACT has become a source of tension for many activists. Many mobile phones of Bengal activists have been disconnected for alleged misuse of this Act. Actually any one can be sent to jail for violation of this section on ‘Offensive SMS’ where ‘offensive’ is defined in such a manner. So again a question arises – do lakhs of Facebook-Twitter users not have the right to privacy? Don’t they have the freedom of expression and right to information and communication as enshrined in Indian constitution? For whom will the Individual Privacy Law be enacted? Who are these individuals?
One more Act which is waiting in queue, as reported in DNA dated 16 May 2012, needs serious attention of the Civil Society. The report, DNA profiling: Very soon, govt will know you inside out reported, “In a controversial move that threatens to increase the intrusion by the state into the lives of ordinary citizens, the UPA government is set to introduce a DNA Profiling Bill in the winter session of Parliament. Once it becomes a law, the bill will grant the authority to collect vast amount of sensitive DNA data of citizens even if they are “suspects” in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court…The bill has already raised the hackles of many groups working on privacy issues who are worried that if it becomes a law, it would empower the government to create intrusive databases.”
Moreover, there is the UID Project, which would cost approximately 45 thousand crores of Rupees. The Biometric card AADHAAR containing the unique number will store all information of an individual and will have to be used in all purposes of life. Information pertaining to all individuals will be centrally maintained in a server. An “enter” will give all the details of an individual’s movements, sales and purchases, financial details, readings, medical bills etc. It will be an all-pervasive unique instrument of state vigilance on an individual for 24×7, 365 days. So the question once again, for whom will the Privacy Law be enacted?
The A P Shah committee was formed after the episode of the Tata- Radia tape leaks. Ratan Tata himself raised the question of Individual’s right to privacy. Members of different chambers of commerce also raised the issue of right to privacy. So the Government rushed to form the AP Shah Committee. This time Manmohan Singh himself is not at all ambiguous and clearly announced for whom the law is needed and for whom he is concerned. In the above-mentioned meeting of Information Officers, he clearly noted that industrialists should be kept out of RTI purview so that their individual privacy is not violated. One more indication was clearly there when he mentioned “frivolous and vexatious use of the act ” – he was referring the DLF-Vadra deals and it seems that he is willing to save people like son-in- law of the Nation, Robert Vadra, from public scrutiny. So, while 10 lakh applications were filed in a single year under RTI act last year, the men in power and those surrounding them are actively seeking a law of individual privacy. Similarly, civil society and rights activists also wish to have a privacy law to save the citizen’s every day life from continuous state intrusion. But how far they will be able to get the interests of the common people reflected in the new law is a million rupee question and to be seen in the near future.
[ The writer is a Kolkata based Rights activist ]

 

#India-“Twitter Arrest”-why Indians should be afraid of IT Act’s sweeping Sec 66A


Why was an Indian man held for sending a tweet?

By Prasanto K RoyTechnology writer,

Ravi Srinivasan Ravi Srinivasan has refused to apologise for his tweet
  • 6 November 2012, BBC news

How can a virtually unknown Indian boost his Twitter following a hundred-fold overnight?

Ravi Srinivasan did it by becoming the first person in India to be arrested for a tweet. The 46-year-old runs a packaging business in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry.

On 20 October, he posted a tweet to his 16 followers saying that Karti Chidambaram, a politician belonging to India’s ruling Congress party and son of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, had “amassed more wealth than Vadra”.

He was alluding to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, who was at the centre of a political row after allegations over his links with a top Indian property firm. Mr Vadra denies the charges.

Karti Chidambaram (@KartiPC) did not take the tweet in good humour and filed a police complaint on 29 October.

He later tweeted: “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.”

Explosion of support

The police in Pondicherry acted with unusual speed.

They arrested Mr Srinivasan early next morning, charged him under Section 66A of India’s Information Technology [IT] Act, and demanded 15 days of police custody. Pondicherry’s chief judicial magistrate declined remand and granted bail.

There was an explosion of support for Mr Srinivasan, who refused to apologise. He became a hero on prime-time television. His Twitter following (@ravi_the_indian) grew from 16 to 2,300 in 48 hours.

Anti-corruption campaigners have questioned the motive of the police and the Congress party: Mr Srinivasan is a volunteer campaigner himself.

Karti ChidambaramKarti Chidambaram said ‘free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions’

Mr Srinivasan did make an unverified allegation. Mr Chidambaram could have used the libel and defamation laws. But India’s libel laws are complex. You have to prove that you were defamed.

The police action triggered concern about India’s increasing use of Section 66A of the IT Act of 2000, amended in 2008.

Section 66A is sweeping in its powers.

It can send you to jail for three years for sending an email or other electronic message that “causes annoyance or inconvenience”.

On the face of it, this protects citizens against online harassment.

In reality, the law is more often used by the state as a weapon against dissent. In each such case, police action has been swift and harsh.

In April, the West Bengal government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee used Section 66A against a teacher who had emailed to friends a cartoon that was mildly critical of her.

Police arrested the professor and his septuagenarian neighbour at midnight on 12 April, and kept them in “protective custody” for days.

In August, West Bengal’s Human Rights Commission asked the state government to take action against two police officers and pay compensation to the professor and his neighbour.

The arrest in Calcutta had triggered outrage in social media, and a wave of Mamata Banerjee jokes with an #arrestmenow tag on Twitter.

The arbitrariness of Section 66A was evident again – it didn’t matter if a cartoon had been published before, or who drew it. If you emailed it to friends, you could be charged under Section 66A and thrown into jail.

Sweeping powers

And there were other cases across India.

In the north Indian city of Chandigarh, 22-year-old Henna Bakshi’s SUV was stolen in August.

A month later, the police had still not registered a complaint. Frustrated, Ms Bakshi posted a strongly-worded note on the city police’s Facebook page in September.

The police slapped a case under section 66A on Ms Bakshi who, as a 10-year-old, had incidentally received a bravery award from India’s prime minister for fighting robbers and helping bust a gang.

The message to Indian citizens, say activists, is: Be afraid. Be very afraid of Section 66A of the IT Act: it can send you to jail for a careless comment.

Trinamool Congress party leader Mamata Banerjee Ms Banerjee’s government used the law against a teacher who emailed cartoons

The law is convenient, sweeping, and certain of hitting just about any target as long as there is authoritative backing.

There are very few examples of Section 66A being used fairly, to the end of justice.

One was the case of popular Tamil singer and entrepreneur Chinmayi Sripada, 28, who ignored years of “trolling” or online harassment.

Finally, on 18 October, she filed a police complaint following vulgar tweets.

The Chennai police registered a case under Section 66A, and Tamil Nadu’s Prevention of Harassment of Women law. An associate professor in a private fashion institute and a government employee were arrested.

Ms Chinmayi’s celebrity status helped. It is less likely that an ordinary citizen who is harassed online could persuade the police to file a case so easily.

On a TV news channel, Ravi Srinivasan said that a close relative who had his motorbike stolen a year ago was still trying to get the Pondicherry police to register a report.

And, interestingly, Section 66A has never been used against politicians.

Senior politician and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy made stronger corruption allegations against Karti Chidambaram twice this year.

But no action was taken against Mr Swamy, who has now offered to help with Mr Srinivasan’s legal defence.

India needs to make Section 66A far more specific and transparent.

As long as this law remains so very loosely worded and sweeping in its powers, many fear it will remain a powerful weapon to manage dissent by the Indian state.

Prasanto K Roy (Twitter @prasanto) is editorial advisor at CyberMedia, a leading technology publishing group in India.

#India- Sibal’s Law: ‘Grossly offensive’ and of ‘menacing character’ #censorship #foe #fos


courtsey jasrajbhatti at jasrajbhatti.com
November 01, 2012 10:41 IST, Rediff.com
Kapil Sibal has passed a law that anyone posting anything “offensive” on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] II in 2008.’

‘It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!’ notes Shivam Vij.

So an aam aadmi tweeted that the Union finance minister’s son Karti P Chidambaram [ Images ] has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and voila, he gets arrested! Chidu Jr tweets: ‘Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.’

Except that, as far as is known, the businessman whose Web site describes him as ‘The Young Politician’, has not charged the writer of the ‘defamatory’ tweet with defamation. Why not?

Because he’d have to prove defamation in court. Because the person won’t be arrested right away. Because Chidu Sr’s esteemed colleague Shri Kapil Sibal [ Images ] has passed a law that anyone posting anything ‘offensive’ on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance II in 2008.

It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!

If the same allegation was made on wall graffiti or by Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference, nobody would go to jail. But say it on Twitter and the long arm of the law gets a little longer.

Why is it that Subramanian Swamy can make strong corruption allegations against Karti P Chidambaram, as he did back in April, but Chidu Jr won’t put Subramanian Swamy in jail?

An aam aadmi, however, is not dangerous to politicians. The Tamil Nadu police even wanted to keep the man in jail ‘on remand’ for 15 days, but a magistrate granted him bail.

This proves what a lot of us have been arguing: That the real and only intent of Kapil Sibal’s draconian Internet laws is to crush dissent, is to tell people that talking about the Congress party‘s corruption is not allowed.

Welcome to 1975, or was it 1984?

While various aspects of growing Internet censorship in India [ Images ] have been commented on, it appears that the most dangerous one of them has not received sufficient attention. That’s because it’s a draconian aspect of the Information Technology Act which many thought wouldn’t be misused. After all we aren’t China.

But alas, our blanket faith in the inherent goodness of the Indian democratic system allows our rulers to trample upon our rights. That is how Communications Minister Kapil Sibal can grin and claim, every now and then, that he is not for censorship and control over the Internet. He can lie through his teeth and we allow him to get away with it.

Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, came into force in 2010. The section makes punishable with three years in jail posting online ‘any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.’

There’s more to it. A non-bailable arrest warrant for you if you upload information that you knew was false, but you posted it only to cause ‘annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will.’

Yes, annoyance and inconvenience.

There have already been at least three cases of misuse of this section, before even Kapil Sibal’s colleague’s son put it to use.

In April 2011, the West Bengal [ Images ] police arrested Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mohapatra for merely forwarding on e-mail a cartoon making fun of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee [ Images ], using a reference to a Satyajit Ray [ Images ] detective story. It reached Mamta Banerjee and she was offended.

Sibal’s Law was used and the cartoonist was in jail.

Other charges — such as defamation and insulting women under the Indian Penal Code — were not cognisable, so it was only Sibal’s Law that treated him like, well, a gross offender.

Similarly, Congress and Dalit activists in Maharashtra [ Images ] targeted cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for his anti-corruption cartoons that he displayed at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai [ Images ] in December 2011. Their real intent, it seems, was to show the Anna Hazare movement as being anti-national. They charged him with the cognisable offence of sedition, but also with Sibal’s Law — because the cartoons were also available online.

His Web site cartoonsagainstcorruption was shut down in less than 24 hours, using another bit of Sibal’s Law, the intermediary liability rules. Aseem found himself in jail for a few days in September.

More recently, a Chandigarh resident Heena Bakshi was angry with the local police for not doing much to recover her stolen car. She posted an angry message on the Facebook page of the Chandigarh police. It said:

You people kill us with your ‘nakaas’ n check points. Harassing us if we are just driving around at night. But you have no f*****g clue when somebody steals that car from under your eyes. The police started questioning me. If I was making this whole **** up or if someone actually stole it.

Does she deserve jail for this? Well, Sibal’s Law came to the aid of the Chandigarh police. I don’t know if Ms Bakshi has found her car yet.

In all these cases it is clear that the powers-that-be — politicians and government – are using Sibal’s Law to muzzle our voices, to silence dissent, to discourage we the people from expressing out anger against the government.

If this is not the Emergency mindset, what is it?

I find Kapil Sibal’s eyebrows offensive. I can’t put him in jail for that but he can put me in jail for saying as much online. If his law did not apply only to the Internet, but to everything, then that would be fair. In such a fair world I would be able to apply Section 66A against the gross offence his eyebrows cause me.

Sibal announces every other week censorship is not his intent. He says it as if we are supposed to be grateful to him for that. As if we should burst into screams of joy, ‘All hail Indian democracy!’ But the above examples show that Internet censorship is very much his intent.

In other words, he spreads a lie every time he claims censorship is not his government’s intent. If he was to say this on the Internet I would be able to apply his own law on him and have him arrested!

As I said, section 66A includes this as punishable, cognisable offence: ‘Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill-will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device.’

The government has appropriated to itself the task of deciding what is reasonable speech and what is unreasonable speech. That task should belong to the courts and the Indian Penal Code is enough for that.

If the tweet is defamatory, Chidu Jr should file a defamation case. There is no need for any special law for the Internet. The need for special Internet laws is felt by the powerful who realise that criticism and dissent are no longer the monopoly of a pliable, corporate media.

Those troubled by the aam aadmi‘s uncontrollable criticism include the corporate media. Senior television journalists like Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose constantly complain about online trolling and ‘hate speech’. They have thus helped build an environment in favour of Sibal’s Law — ‘causing annoyance’, ‘menacing character’, ‘grossly offensive’ are all good descriptors of how the powerful see online dissent.

These journalists have thus favoured draconian laws while paying lip service to free speech by arguing that while corporate media is covered by legal restrictions online media seems to be a free-for-all.

But I am also only demanding equality. Mamta Banerjee walked out of a Sagarika Ghose show in Kolkata [ Images ]. She was offended by the questions posed to her. She was also offended by the cartoon a professor forwarded on e-mail.

While the professor had to go to jail and seek bail and will be doing the rounds of the courts to defend himself, Sagarika Ghose has not been charged with the cognisable offence of ‘causing annoyance’ or being ‘grossly offensive’ to Mamata Banerjee.

If Sibal’s Law applies to a professor, why should it not apply to an editor? Is CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose more equal before the eyes of the law than a professor who imparts education?

I have a point Sagarika, don’t you think so? If my question annoys you, please don’t use Sibal’s Law against me.

Shivam Vij

 

#India- Tweets against Chidambaram’s son land man in jail #censorship #law


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ  , The Hindu

A file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

The HinduA file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

Ravi Srinivasan faces up to three years in jail if found guilty

Does a tweet on reports of corruption, sent out to 16 followers, deserve a possible penalty of three years of imprisonment? The answer seems to be yes, at least according to Congress leader and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti, who filed a complaint against small-time Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan, and the Puducherry police which charged Mr. Srinivasan under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2008.

Section 66-A deals with messages sent via computer or communication devices which may be “grossly offensive,” have “menacing character,” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience.” For offences under the section, a person can be fined and jailed up to three years.

Mr. Srinivasan, a 45-year-old supplier of plastic parts to telecom companies and a volunteer with India Against Corruption, had on October 20 tweeted from his Twitter account @ravi_the_indian : “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.” Other such tweets reportedly made references to Mr. P. Chidambaram.

Mr. Srinivasan is however appalled by the reaction his tweet has provoked. “At 5 a.m. on Tuesday [October 30] morning, I was woken up and pulled out of my house by CBCID men and told I was under arrest because of my tweets,” he told The Hindu. “My wife and two daughters were in shock. What wrong have I done?”

The police told him he was being charged because of an e-mail complaint sent by Mr. Karti Chidambaram to the Inspector General of Police, in which he accused him of malicious intent to defame a good man. He was produced before a judicial magistrate and released on bail that evening.

Mr. Chidambaram was out of the country on Wednesday, and remained unavailable for comment. But he did post a short statement on his own Twitter account @KartiPC. “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets,” he said to his 3,655 followers. He did not respond to queries on Twitter.

Mr. Srinivasan — whose Twitter tagline reads: Jai- hind guy, want to see India as no 1 in every sphere, believer that india can do it — has only posted 110 tweets in his one and a half years on the microblogging site. He has a grand total of 16 followers, as of Wednesday evening.

“My tweet refers to reports I read about Karti Chidambaram and Robert Vadra in the newspapers. It is not even my own opinion. I don’t know what is defamatory about it,” he said. “When I read the kind of tweets other people have written on corruption, I do not know why I am being targeted.” He wondered if his involvement with the IAC, and participation in their activities in Puducherry, has brought this upon him. In his latest tweet, he asked the IAC for “moral support.”

Interestingly, on October 22, Mr. Chidambaram had tweeted about a story in The Hindu on the arrest of two people who had allegedly harassed singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter, and were charged under Section 66-A of the IT Act. Linking to The Hindu’s article, Mr. Chidambaram’s tweet added: “food for thought for you know who! :)”

Activists campaigning for online freedom of speech say this kind of charge under the IT Act was inevitable, given the ambiguous nature of Section 66-A. Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society, says the clause is “overbroad,” “unconstitutional,” and does not satisfy Article 19 (2) of the Constitution which allows for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.

He points out that there is no equivalent law for any offline communication, whether in verbal or printed format. “If you write a book that annoys or inconveniences me, even deliberately, I have no civil or criminal recourse. But if you send an e-mail message, or post a tweet, you could face three years in jail,” says Mr. Prakash. “That’s higher than the two-year imprisonment for causing death by negligence.”