Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act

  • The Indian government acted in accordance with Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • It requested that a video depicting the naked parade and sexual assault of two Manipur women be removed from Twitter and other social media platforms.

What is the meaning of Section 69(A) of the IT Act?

  • Section 69(A) empowers the government to issue content-blocking orders to online intermediaries such as ISPs, web hosting firms, search engines, and so on.
  • Content can be blocked if it is deemed to pose a threat to India’s national security, sovereignty, public order, or cordial relations with foreign governments, or if it incites the commission of cognizable offences.
  • Requests for blocking content made by the government are forwarded to a review committee, which issues the required instructions. Such orders are usually kept private.

The Supreme Court’s Decision on Section 69(A)

  • Overturning Section 66A: In Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India (2015), the Supreme Court invalidated Section 66A of the IT Act, which penalised the transmission of inflammatory information over communication services.
  • Section 69 Validated: The Court maintained the validity of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Rules 2009, noting that it is narrowly worded and contains various protections.
  • Blocking Power Is Limited: The Court emphasised that blocking can only be carried out if the Central Government is convinced of its importance, and that the reasons for blocking must be documented in writing for legal challenges.

Other Rulings on Section 69(A)

  • Twitter’s Challenge: In July of last year, Twitter filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court, appealing the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) content-blocking orders issued under Section 69(A).
  • Court’s Decision: In July, a single-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court dismissed Twitter’s petition, claiming that the Centre had the right to restrict posts.
  • Extending Blocking Powers: According to Justice Krishna D Dixit, the Centre’s blocking powers extend not only to individual tweets but also to whole user accounts.

@the end

Section 69(A)’s applicability has been the topic of legal and societal dispute, since it seeks to balance national security and public order issues with the protection of free speech and expression.

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