Thursday, December 4, 2014

SC ultimatum on social media law

The Supreme Court has set a one-week deadline on the Centre to make its stand clear on two draconian clauses that were pushed through by the UPA without debate and repeatedly invoked to harass Internet users.

The controversial provisions are Sections 66A and 74 of the Information Technology Act and have been largely used to crack down on those who posted allegedly “objectionable material” on social networking sites.

Under Section 66A, individuals posting “objectionable” material can be jailed for up to three years. Under Section 74, intermediaries such as the networking site hosting such material can be slapped with a jail term of up to two years.

Citing the potential for misuse, civil society has been demanding the repeal of the two sections. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a Jadavapur University professor, was arrested under Section 66A for circulating by email a joke lampooning chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Even after the change of guard at the Centre, the new government has not yet taken a clear-cut stand on the two widely derided clauses.

Today, the Supreme Court warned that it would stay the provisions unless the Centre explained within a week why they had been incorporated in the law.

The apex court rejected the repeated pleas of additional solicitor-general Maninder Singh that the government be given at least two weeks to file an affidavit.

“Either you file the affidavit within a week or we will stay the operation of the provisions until we dispose of the matter. Heavens are not going to fall if the provisions are stayed because this country had been existing for the past 60 years without those provisions.

“We leave the choice to you. Either file an affidavit within a week or we will stay the operation of the provisions, the choice is yours,” a bench of Justices J. Chelameshwar and S.A. Bobde told Singh.

The provisions were first challenged in the top court in late 2012 by a Delhi student, Shreya Singhal, after two teenaged girls in Mumbai were arrested for posting what the Shiv Sena considered objectionable remarks on Facebook against the late Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray.

Subsequently, there was a flurry of petitions from NGOs and civil liberties organisations seeking quashing of the provisions on grounds that they violated the fundamental right to speech and expression.

Agreeing with the petitioner’s counsel Manali Singhal, the apex court said the matter could not be treated lightly as the PIL was filed in April 2012. Over two years have passed but the Centre had not come out with any categorical stand.

Last year, the government had merely informed the apex court that on Section 66A, it had issued a general circular to all states and Union territories saying prior permission of IG-rank officers in cities and SP-level officers in districts would have to be taken before any person was arrested under the provision. There has been no follow-up action on Section 74.

The case in the Indian Supreme Court coincides with one in the US Supreme Court, which is addressing how far the law should protect — not punish — people who use social media to send violent and menacing threats. ( )

In India, Section 66A did not draw much attention when it was passed in Parliament but its power to harass became apparent when several state governments started invoking it to stifle dissent.

Section 66A affects individuals directly as it covers messages sent by “means of a computer resource or a communication device”.

Its reach is sweeping: any information that the sender knows to be false but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.

“Annoyance and inconvenience” are subjective and can be misinterpreted to launch witch-hunts.

In 2012, a former Chief Justice of India had told this newspaper that Section 66A was unsafe in the hands of authorities and it had been used only “where the powerful have been offended”.

Source - The Telegraph - SC ultimatum on social media law R. BALAJI

Thursday, November 27, 2014

IPL, Natural Disasters And Morality - Ranjeev Dubey

A well written Article - IPL, Natural Disasters And Morality:

"When social elites endorse immoral conduct, society cannot have moral underpinnings. 

When social elites don't act on their professed ethical constructs, pointing fingers at politicians and celebrities at best comes off as part of weekend time pass.

If we want a society that genuinely strives to a better and higher moral standard, we will have to put the interest of the group taken as a whole above our dharma, as a warrior, a corporate executive or even as a father. 

That is a huge cultural shift and till we can all get there, all the indignation and the hysterics is just purgation."

'via Blog this'

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Land Acquisition Law Confusion

After a long drawn debate, and discussion last year, dcoumented at - the Confusion of the Land Acquisition Law/s Continues...

Nov 20, 2014
Law minister Sadananda Gowda on Wednesday ruled out taking the ordinance route for any amendments in the Land Acquisition Act <<>> though he said the government was in favour of bringing some changes.  "There is a proposal. The call has to be taken by the concerned (rural development) ministry," he said, without elaborating on the proposed changes.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley had last week said the government will amend the "tough" land acquisition law even without opposition support as it looks to restore confidence in the economy. The government is in favour of consulting other parties and developing a consensus on the proposed changes. Some states have already expressed concern and cited difficulties in acquiring land for infrastructure projects with stringent clause such as obtaining consent of at least 70% of affected landowners in case of PPP projects and 80% in case of private projects.
Source - Times of India

Nov 9, 2014
The Land Acquisition Bill, which was passed during the previous UPA regime with then opposition BJP supporting it, seeks to set a fair compensation for farm land being taken over for industrial projects. But the law has made land acquisition very difficult, slowing projects. States too have come out openly against the law saying it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. Jaitley said that the "obstacles" to the land laws would have to be first removed in order to implement the concept of smart cities in India.
In Budget 2014-15, Jaitley had proposed an allocation of Rs 7,060 crore for developing 100 'smart cities' in the country. The Rural Development Ministry has already suggested a number of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act that will water down provisions such as mandatory consent of at least 70% locals for acquiring land for PPP projects, and 80 per cent for private projects. Jaitley also said that the government's disinvestment programme will "unfold" in the next couple of days.
Source - DNA India

July 15, 2014.
The government is keen on bringing changes in the new Land Acquisition Act to make it more industry friendly.  The government may also convene an all-party meet to evolve a consensus so that a Bill to amend the one-year-old law could be introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament.
Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari has already started informal consultations with the allies as well as some of the opposition parties.
The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has sent a note to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), suggesting dilution in some of the key provisions of the Act, as proposed by the revenue ministers of the state governments during their recent meeting with Gadkari.
The provisions that the MoRD is keen to dilute include the one that made it mandatory to obtain prior consent of at least 70 per cent of land owners in case of acquisitions for public-private-partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent in case of private projects.
In its note to the PMO, the MoRD suggested that the requirement of consent of land owners should be done away with for the PPP projects, where the governments hold ownership of the land. If the rider cannot be struck off, the clause should be revised to make sure that land could be acquired even if 50 per cent of the owners had given consent, the MoRD argued in its note.  The Congress-led UPA government got the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill passed by both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha during the monsoon session of Parliament last year. It replaced the archaic Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The new law was projected as a pro-farmer legislation and triggered concerns in the industry about the delays it would cause to acquire land for any project. Though the BJP helped pass the bill in Parliament, the party hinted during its campaign for the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year that it would give the law a re-look if elected to power.
Source - Deccan Herald

Time will only tell...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Road Under Construction Causes Accident - Engineers Booked - TOI Bangalore

For probably the first time, ever, two BDA engineers and a project-in-charge manager were on Friday arrested by the Bangalore traffic police in connection with a ghastly road accident. The accident on September 3, due to an unpainted divider, killed two persons and injured one near Outer Ring Road in Devarabeesanahalli, exactly opposite Accenture and Ecospace tech park.

The arrests are said to be the direct outcome of a meeting chaired by Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) B Dayananada a few days ago instructing all traffic police officials pin the blame on and arrest BDA and BBMP engineers in-charge of badly-maintained roads in case of fatal accidents.

A first for city: 2 Engineers held for road mishap
(Above) Mangled remains of the vehicle which rammed into the median, killing two and injuring one. (Below) The clumsily-placed hazard board at the median in front of theDevarabeesanahalli flyover following the accident. 
Confirming the arrests, deputy commissioner of police (Traffic East) Babu Rajendra Prasad told Bangalore Mirror, "We have arrested AEE K Sripad Raju and AE Pradeep from the BDA, along with project manager Vittobha from Simplex Infrastructure Private, to which the work of maintaining the roads and completing the project had been outsourced.''

The trio has been booked under sections 279 (negligent act on a public way), 304 (A) (causing death by negligence), and 337 (causing hurt by an act endangering life or personal safety of others). Dayananda told Bangalore Mirror: "I have instructed the traffic police to book cases against the concerned civic officials wherever their fault is found. In this particular case, the engineers and project manager were arrested for failing to paint the central median with reflective paint and install sign boards cautioning drivers on the road about the barrier."

Sources said that after the accident, a small reflector board held up by stones has been placed at the site. However, even this is said to be not very visible. Sripad Raju told Mirror, "Road safety is a different job and it has to be implemented by B-Trac. Painting and putting up sign boards is work that is supposed to be taken up by the traffic police. The accident occurred because of rash driving and not because of incomplete work. Putting the blame on us and holding us responsible is not done in this case." However, Prasad said: "If the work is incomplete, why do they deem the road safe enough for motorists to ply? They should close off all roads until the roads are completely ready for travel. We also held a meeting with BBMP and NHAI officials the day before yesterday where we apprised them about all problem junctions in the city that needed to be addressed in terms of lighting and road repairs."

Source -