Twitter India recently blocked several twitter accounts like – Caravan India,
Kisan ekta morcha and 250 other such accounts which sparked a controversy.
Ministry of electronics and information technology ordered to blocked these
accounts citing the reason of Incitement to genocide. There are apprehensions
that these accounts were blocked to maintain public law and order amidst the
ongoing farmer protest.
However, what we need to understand is that this is not a first step that was
taken under section 69a of IT act. Previous year, several Chinese apps were
also banned under this section amidst the deadly clash between the armies of
both the nation. Plus two years ago, jio users were also complaining that they
were unable to access websites like Indian kanoon and apps like reddit and
Telegram .Later, it was found that these apps and websites too were blocked by
government under same directive.
About Section 69 Of It Act, 2000
Section 69a was amendment in information technology act in 2008 by parliament.
It allowed the central government to denied public access on any website or any
app which found to be misleading and threat to national security of nation. A
notification released by ministry of home affairs in 2018 also sparked a
controversy at that time by specifying 10 specialized agencies for interception
and monitoring of accounts under section 69 of it act.
However , it should be noted that Indian telegraph act of 1885 also permitted
agencies for monitoring of accounts but only under 5 condition which are –
Intergrity of India, Security of state, Public order, friendly relations with
states and to prevent the incitement of an offences which was kept intact by
government under IT act also by recent notification. However, the inclusion of
sixth ground which is – investigation of crime itself enlarges its arena and its
scope plus it allows agencies to reach directly to reach to the subscribers
without any middle agency. Working as a cherry on the top, it also has a
provision of imprisonment of maximum 7 years in case of incorporation with
Shreya Singhal v/s Union Of India, 2015
Supreme court in case shreya singhal v UOI upheld the validity of section 69a
which extends to the blocking or restricting certain websites or apps in
interest of security of state and to maintain integrity of India. As it is
related to the national security, therefore queries under RTI would not be
entertained as far as section 69a is concerned. Supreme court in this case
stated that it is absolutely constitutional but still any order to block or
restrict any site should be in written and it has to be approved by a committee
which would also include the members of ministry of law and justice and ministry
of home affairs.
Is It A Threat To Privacy?
Right to privacy is a fundamental right directed by a supreme court in case
KS puttaswamy vs UOI by a nine judge bench. However, it is to be noted that
like any other fundamental right it is not absolute and is subjected to
restriction and these restrictions are – (a) backed by law (b) legitimate aim
and (c) should be proportionate. Hence any order that would be passed under
section 69a should be subjected to these restrictions and should pass this three
The matter of concern is that even shree Krishna committee which has a
responsibility to look out for the data protection law in india expressed its
concern over the lack of judicial activism and government's enthusiasm to
curtail the fundamental right of right to privacy. It gives the reference of
countries like – united kingdom, US and south Africa where privacy is an
absolute right and people are adequately safeguarded over government
Information technology act is not an only act which curtails the individual’s
liberty but are one of these laws. Various laws such as – Indian telegraph act
and indian post office act are other such acts. Indian aspiration for online
liberty are being expressed over the years and hence it is really necessary to
re evaluate the data protection and online privacy legislations in india which
should be accepted by the masses.