|IRNA, The Islamic Republic News Agency, reported that Mumbai police are warming up its Internet monitoring and censorship activities on Internet access and usage in India.|
An order issued by India's department of information technology empowers a proposed committee headed by bureaucrats with sweeping powers to police and decide which website content and services Indians can access. The Cert-In committee would comprise of bureaucrats and officials from department of information technology and the law or home ministry.
Cyberlawers like Somasekhar Sundaresan warn that this would be the first formal step towards Internet censorship in Indian law. Critics argue that this would weaken freedom of speech and democracy and restrain the power of the Internet. News websites like Tehelka.com which in 2002 exposed a defence scandal involving top brass would be blocked out, if it’s against the interests of the government or its officials.
The Information Technology Act passed in 2000 only provides for the blocking of pornographic websites and the monitoring of websites which endanger public order, the integrity and security of the nation and relations with other countries. The new government initiative seems like a major legal upgrade permitting the blacking out of 'websites promoting gambling besides hate content, racism, violence, slander or defamation of others, terrorism and other such material, in addition to promoting pornography, including child pornography and violent sex.'
The order goes on to add: 'Blocking of such websites may be equated to balanced flow of information and not censorship.' The new order has too many open-ends and loopholes to include just about any content or service on the Internet, argue critics.
According to the order, various agencies ranging from Central and State home departments, the courts, Intelligence Bureaus, police and the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) can submit a complaint to the director of Cert-In committee, a new organisation which has been set up by the government to address IT security issues which will 'meet and take on the spot decision on whether the website is to be blocked or not.'