Free Speech for Indians on internet sign now

The freedom of free speech on the Internet, that is cornerstone of any healthy democracy, is been grossly and blatantly undermined in India by the administration by its indiscriminate and draconian application of the IT Act 2000 (Section 67). In a horrifying incident on the night of 31st August, 2007, Mr. Lakshmana K, an employee of HCL in Bangalore, was arrested and then lodged with 200 undertrials in the Yerawada Jail for 50 days without bail, for a crime which he did not even commit. He was released only when it was later found that the Internet Service Provider Airtel had wrongly provided the IP address of Mr. Lakshmana to the police, who were seeking the person who had allegedly written something defamatory about Shivaji in an online Orkut forum. Mr. Lakshmana had been charged under Section 295A of the IPC for a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and Section 67 of the IT Act for publishing "lascivious" material. The latter charge carries a punishment of five years. His case is not an isolated one but it only highlights how the IT Act with its ambiguities is being manipulated by vested interests to stifle the freedom of Internet users in India.

On August 04, 2008, a moderator of an Orkut community was arrested on the ground that one of its members had posted hate content against Bal Thackeray. Although the police say that the message was written by someone else, they maintain that by failing to delete the message, the moderator has committed a crime. In yet another case, Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid from Gurgaon, a 22 yr old IT professional from Haryana was arrested by the Pune police for posting derogatory obscene content about Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on an orkut community named I hate Sonia Gandhi.

Internet users in India are being arrested under such flimsy grounds under the IT Act that the country is gradually turning into a police state. Merely voicing ones opposition to some leader or personality on the Internet may cause one to be arrested. The confidence and belief of millions of Indians in the impartiality and intelligence of the Indian administration has been severely eroded. This has made a total mockery of the Right to Freedom of Expression, which is a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian constitution.

We hereby appeal to the President of India to personally intervene in this matter to restore the right of free speech to the Indian internet users by advising the legislature in both amending the relevant sections of the IT act and its judicious application thereby preventing the administration from victimizing Indian internet users whose views are different from those with political clout and who want to express these views on the internet.

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Maggie BowenBy:
Technology and the InternetIn:
Petition target:
The President of India

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