(P.S: Since the publication of this article, the draft
Bill has been amended and many of the objections raised herein have been
addressed satisfactorily in the August 31 draft. naavi.org thanks the Government
of India for its responsiveness. In the light of these modifications, the
comments made here in may be treated as of academic interest only. ..Naavi)
The Convergence Bill that is presently before the Parliament has the
potential to become the most Anti-Freedom legislation in India...atleast
to the Indian Netizens or Citizens of India who are also Netizens.
Some experts have recently commented that perhaps the Convergence Bill
is coming too soon and we should learn by the Malaysian Experience where
a similar law was enacted in 1998, where it is dubbed a piece of "Over
The fundamental problem of Convergence Bill is that perpetuation of
the "License Raj" is the essence of the Bill. While this may not
be new to the Broadcast or the Telecom industry, Internet users have the
cause to raise their voice because their freedom is being lost once and
I am one of those who advocate "Self Regulation" and also support "Fair
Regulation". But Convergence Bill has the potential to be not only an "Unfair
Legislation" but also a "Draconian Legislation".
While licensing for the purpose of "Spectrum Management" is a
"Fair Regulation", by no stretch of imagination, licensing of Internet
Content Publication can be supported. Convergence Bill aims to not only
license such web activities, but also regulate through a "Code of Content".
naavi.org has previously discussed the existence of web sites such as
dalitstan.org and hiduism.org and why the content in these sites need to
be regulated. This matter has also been brought to the notice of the Government.
However, the Government has not seen the urge to take action against these
sites which are spreading hatred and promoting session in India.
We donot need the Convergence Bill to regulate the content of hate sites
such as dalitstan.org or hinduism.org. But we have not shown the inclination
to do so.
Then what is the objective of a new "Content Code?".
Would it be applied to meet political ends?. Would NDA use
it against Congress? or DMK against AIADMK? . Tomorrow will Congress
(When in power) use it against NDA?
... are the concerns of Indian Netizens.
The power conferred by the Bill to regulate Internet content is
likely to be a tool in the hands of the political parties to meet their
own ends rather than serve the people.
This Bill is therefore more dangerous than the Carnivore and
the Indian Netizens and those interested in the growth of Internet should
raise in one voice to get the Bill suitably amended before it is passed
through the Parliament in a hurry.
July 31 2001
Text of the Revised Bill Available here at India TV.com