India’s credibility being downgraded by the assault on Republic in Maharashtra

When Section 66A of ITA 2000 was used by the Mumbai Police to arrest the Palghar girls, several people objected to the arrest and claimed that there was an infringement of the right to freedom of speech. When the case went upto Supreme Court, the Court said there was a “Chilling Effect” caused by Section 66A provisions that could stifle freedom of expression and scrapped the section.

Now one is left to wonder where are the Shreya Singhals and the Supreme Court when there is an assault on the freedom of press in Mumbai where the Maharashtra Government is acting more lethal than the 1975 Indira Gandhi regime and the Mumbai Police is acting most unprofessionally.

Is Freedom of Press limited only to

opposing Section 69 notification under ITA 2000? or

opposing implementation of Aadhaar? or

opposing the notification under Section 79 for intermediaries?

Is the stifling of Republic TV channel not an infringement of the right to free speech?.

Supreme Court owes an answer for the people of India.

Where are organizations like Medianama.com who jump into action  whenever there is an  anti Modi Government issue to fight on?

Why are they silent on the assault on freedom of press in Maharashtra?.

Are they also like the Award Wapsi gang with an agenda?…

there is a need for introspection by these agencies.

While Republic might have invited the wrath of the  Government and Mumbai Police because of the intense campaign it ran and is running, why are other media vehicles in the Print and Internet as well as other channels like Times Now maintaining silence on what is adversely affecting their industry as a whole?

By treating this as a problem of Republic alone we are allowing the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra Government to use “Divide and Rule” policy.

It is a shame if Times Now thinks that it can benefit if Republic journalists are all in jail without understanding that the plight of Republic may come to them next.

NDTV and India Today may be rejoicing since they are known to consider Republic as a sworn enemy and their editorial policies are opposed to both Republic and Times Now.

If we allow Maharashtra Government to succeed in its attempt to silence Republic now,  there will be a permanent damage to the freedom of speech in India. This can never be corrected.

I would not hesitate to also blame the Central Government to have remained a moot spectator and allowed the issue to escalate.

With Maharashtra Government declining permission for CBI in the state, it appears that the Shivasena is slowly taking Maharashtra out of the federal system. In due course, it can be another troubled state like Mamata’s West Bengal .

We all expected  Mr Modi and Amit Shah to be  decisive leaders but we find that  they are failing in their handling of Maharashtra. If they donot wake up now, they will be responsible for the deterioration of law and order across the country as more states like Kerala will intensify their anti national tendencies.

Many of the professionals in the media and academy were not happy with the Arnab way of “Journalism by shouting”. But that is an issue that pales into insignificance when we talk of whether 1000 journalists of Republic be harassed with FIRs and mid night enquiries are to be conducted to extract evidence in TRP case while the post mortem of Sushant Singh Rajput is deliberately botched up.

It is time that Media as a whole whether it is Digital media, TV media or Print media raise their voice against the actions that are being taken by Mumbai Police and Maharashtra Government in the Republic issue.

Let me not mince my words. Our Supreme Court would have taken a suo moto notice  if there was a similar action against any publication or entity which is part of the  favoured lobby in Delhi. But it appears that the Supreme Court wants to keep its distance since the victim in this case is Mr Arnab Goswami and his channel, supportive of Mr Modi and BJP.

There is a perception that our constitution does not support equality  for all and has a built in bias against parts of the community brought in by the various amendments. It is the duty of the Supreme Court to correct this impression by its intervention when required. It is therefore the responsibility of the Supreme Court to act swiftly and try to assure the citizens of India that what is happening in Mumbai is unacceptable by any democratic standards.

Otherwise there is no difference between this Supreme Court and the Court of 1975 which upheld the emergency. The state of lawlessness visible in Maharashtra now, is a clear indication to the international governments to consider that Indian judiciary cannot be trusted to uphold democracy in a crisis. Just as it capitulated in 1975 to political expediency, it is again showing a tendency to abandon its duty to  pull up Mumbai Police and the Government.

If EU-GDPR authorities are looking at India for “Adequacy” or economists are looking at “Ease of Doing Business” in India they will take into account the Law and Order situation in the Country. The EUCJ judgment on Schrems II case is a clear indication that unless unfettered action of the Government and the Police on companies is not checked in law, there is no “Adequacy” under GDPR.

The international agencies may now have to consider that Maharashtra is a state in India for which the they have to assign a lower score in terms of lawful democratic governance.  As a federal Country with law enforcement being the local subject, the interference by Police is a local Government issue. Other states may claim that they are more democratic than Maharashtra and claim a better “Adequacy” or “Index of doing business” than Maharashtra.

This may mean that some States in India may be considered “Adequate” under GDPR requirement and some may not. Maharashtra belongs to the “Not Adequate Status” by miles.

I suggest that Karnataka Government may seize this opportunity, reiterate its “Lawful Governance” and claim a superior status for its Data protection status. This will enable data centers in Maharashtra processing EU data to shift its data centers to Karnataka.

If however, Maharashtra is considered part of India, the rating of India also may be downgraded and we will not have any defense.

These are long term adverse implications of the fight between the Maharashtra Government and Republic Channel. Both the Central Government and the Supreme Court have to accept responsibility for such developments caused by their inability to discipline the rogue elements in the States whether it is in J&K, West Bengal, Kerala or Maharashtra.

Naavi

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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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