SC questions Centre’s power to allocate coal blocks

PTI | Jan 24, 2013,

SC questions Centre's power to allocate coal blocks
The Supreme Court has said that the Mines and Minerals Act gives no power to the Centre to allocate coal blocks to companies.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned Centre’s power to allocate coal blocks to companies, saying it has a lot of “legal explanation” to do as the statutory Act empowers only the states to undertake this task. 

The apex court said that the Centre cannot undermine the the Mines and Minerals Actwhich has given no power to it to allocate coal block to companies.

A bench of justices RM Lodha and J Chelameswar asked the government to go through other legislations particularly the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, to find out whether it is empowered to allocate the resources.

“There is absolutely no power given to the Centre under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. There is no provision overriding the Act. You require to give a lot of legal explanation,” the bench said.

“The question is does the Centre have power under the Act and does it have the power to undermine the entire statutory mechanism. Can you override the statutory provision of the Act… It is very doubtful, legally perhaps,” it said.

Attorney general GE Vahanvati said he does not want to give an out of cuff answers to these questions and sought time to go into these issues.

The bench granted six weeks time to the Centre to respond on the issue.

“From your affidavit itself it appears that minerals and mining lease has to be executed by the state and not by the Centre. It strikes at the root of all the allocation,” the bench said.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by advocate ML Sharma and various members of civil society including former CEC N Gopalaswami, ex-Navy chief L Ramdas and former Cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, seeking a SIT probe into the coal block allocation scam.


Online #censorship: How government should approach regulation of speech

2 Dec, 2012, 06.21AM IST,  ET

If the government’s answer to ‘bad’ online content is more censorship, more surveillance and more regulation, then they are doing it wrong.

If the government’s answer to ‘bad’ online content is more censorship, more surveillance and more regulation, then they are doing it wrong.
Why is there a constant brouhaha in India about online censorship? What must be done to address this?Of course, we must get the basics right — bad law has to be amended, read down by courts or repealed, and bad implementation of law should be addressed via reform and capacity building for the police. But most importantly those in power must understand how to approach the regulation of speech.To begin with, speech is regulated across the world. Even in the US — contrary to popular impression in India — speech is regulated both online and offline.

However, law is not the basis of most of this regulation. Speech is largely regulated by social norms. Different corners of our online and offline society have quite complex forms of self-regulation.

The harm caused by speech is often proportionate to the power of the person speaking — it maybe unacceptable for a politician or a filmstar to make an inflammatory remark but that very same utterance from an ordinary citizen may be totally fine.

To complicate matters, the very same speech by the very same person could be harmful or harmless based on context. A newspaper editor may share obscene jokes with friends in a bar, but may not take similar liberties in an editorial.

The legal scholar Alan Dershowitz tells us, “The best answer to bad speech is good speech.” More recently the quote has been amended, with “more speech” replacing “good speech”.

Censorship by the state has to be reserved for the rarest of rare circumstances. This is because censorship usually results in unintended consequences.

The “Streisand Effect”, named after the singer-actor Barbra Streisand, is one of these consequences wherein attempts to hide or censor information only result in wider circulation and greater publicity.

The Maharashtra police’s attempt to censor the voices of two women has resulted in their speech being broadcast across the nation on social and mainstream media. If the state had instead focused on producing good speech and more speech, nobody would have even heard of these women.

Circumventing Censorship

Peer-to-peer technologies on the internet mimic the topology of human networks and can also precipitate unintended consequences when subject to regulation. John Gilmore, a respected free software developer, puts it succinctly: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Most of the internet censorship in the US is due to IPR-enforcement activities. This is why Christopher Soghoian, a leading privacy activist, attributes the massive adoption of privacy-enhancing technologies such as proxies and VPNs (virtual private networks) by American consumers to the crackdown on online piracy.

n India, and even when the government has had legitimate reasons to regulate speech, there have been unintended consequences.During the exodus of people from the North-east, the five SMS per day restriction imposed by the government resulted in another exodus from SMS to alternative messaging platforms such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), WhatsApp and Twitter.In both cases the circumvention of censorship by the users has resulted in a worsening situation for law-enforcement organisations — VPNs and applications like WhatsApp are much more difficult to monitor and regulate.

Mixed Memes

Regulation of speech also cannot be confused with cyber war or security. Speech can occasionally have security implications but that cannot be the basis for enlightened regulation.

A cyber war expert may be tempted to think of censored content as weapons, but unlike weapons that usually remain lethal, content that can cause harm today may become completely harmless tomorrow. This is unlike a computer virus or malware. For example, during the exodus, the online edition of ET featured the complete list of 309 URLs that were in the four block orders issued by the government to ISPs.

However, this did not result in fresh harm, demonstrating the fallacy of cyber war analogies. A cyber security expert, on the other hand, may be tempted to implement a 360° blanket surveillance to regulate speech, but as Gilmore again puts it, “If you’re watching everybody, you’re watching nobody.”

In short, if your answer to bad speech is more censorship, more surveillance and more regulation, then as the internet meme goes, “You’re Doing It Wrong”.

(The writer is executive director, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore)


#India #BreakingNews- #Mumbai Police Blocks FOX and Discovery channels on #digitalcable #Censorship #WTFnews

Nov1, 2012, 3.00pm

I love ‘ Fox Crime : Channel and Alfred Hitchock presents my favourite, so as I switched my  television today to watch my favourite show, this is what i saw

Cursing my remote I again  started surfing channels, then auto scanning channels , I switch my TV off and then on again

and here is what I got

I have a digital cable TV connnection, so while all hue and cry was going on for last few days, I was least bothered. Now after checking all technical glitches with my digital connection myself, Ii called my cable operator, and there came a robotic voice, ‘ Madam, fox channel na, haan woh police ne band karwa diya hai  ( Madam, the police has blocked  fox channel )?” I was like WHAT ???, Yes , madam discovery science bhi band karwar diya hai. ( They also blocked the discovery science channel )  I asked her if the Police gave them anything in writing. ‘ Kya, madam, police kya likh ke dega,  ( What Madam, What police will give in writing ? ( laughingly ) ,they have blocked the channels’.   WTF,  was my only reaction.  I treid the police phoen numbers but could never get through as usual.

How can police block channels, do they think that robbers  watch criminal minds and plan their robbery and  murderers  will watch Alfred Hitchcock presents to hatch their perfect murders, what crap.  So, if they are going on banning spree, why not Crime patrol  on Sony TV, Saavdhan India on Life OK channel. Although, censorship of any kind is problematic, but here uts the typical stereotype that western channels  are polluting the innocent desi minds argh.

The police had blocked channels in 2008,imposing section 19 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, that governed the  cable operators,  as accoridng to the police the transmission of  of various clippings,  coverage of the actions take  by the police against the terrorists in South Mumbai were  causing impediment in the police action and  operational difficulties. Section 19 of the Cable TV Act empowers the authorised officers to prohibit transmission of certain programmes that are not in conformity of the programme code and is likely to disturb the public tranquility.


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