Last night I received a notice from H S P Singh, Asst. Commissioner of Police, Cyber Crime Cell, EOW: Crime Branch, Delhi Police.
I was asked to remove one blog post and one Facebook post. The post of January 2012 (I'm not joking: it is something I wrote over 32 months ago!) contained a strong criticism of a Delhi High court judge who cited CHINESE SYSTEMS (and, presumably, precedents) for blocking Indian websites. [See Indian Express news item here].
I first decided to question the cryptic order I had received, since I had merely expressed a strong opinion condemning such an anti-liberty approach by an Indian judge.
So this is what I wrote:
==MY FIRST EMAIL RESPONSE TO THE ACP===
Dear Sh Singh
Thanks for your email. I'm afraid, though, that I don't understand the basis on which you've sent me this email.
1) May I get a copy of the complaint?
2) May I know under what Indian law am I not allowed to express my opinion regarding a matter reported in an Indian newspaper? Am I not allowed to THINK about the implications of such news reports?
3) What's defamatory about my challenge of Justice xxx reported statement in which he cites CHINESE LAW AND PRECEDENTS as the basis of his actions? "Like China, we will block all such websites". In totalitarian China there is no free speech but India has constitutional protections on free speech. Indian judges – to be respected by the people of India – need to follow Indian laws – or cite liberal precedents. India is a liberal republic, as the debates in the Constituent Assembly will attest. Please ask the complainant to show me on what basis he cited Chinese law.
It is my considered opinion that Justice xxx has deeply insulted India, Indian traditions of freedom, and Indian laws by citing China as the basis of his decision/s. What was the point of getting independence from the British if India has to follow Chinese totalitarian approaches in India? Are we a satellite of China? Indians need and deserve FREEDOM, not oppression.
If Justice xxx apologises to the people of India for his deeply obnoxious statement and changes it to: "I will implement Indian laws and judiciously block any website that Indian laws require, subject to the very strong Constitutional protections afforded to all Indians" then I'll withdraw my remarks and remove my blog post. I'd be delighted if Justice xxx desires to fight for INDIAN FREEDOM, FOR THE FREEDOM OF INDIANS TO THINK AND TO SPEAK, not help promote a Chinese oppressive totalitarian regime in India. Please see the clear commitment to free speech in the Sone Ki Chidiya total reform agenda available here: http://sonekichidiya.in/
4) By thy way, how does this complaint come under your jurisdiction (Cyber Crime cell), anyway? Please cite the specific law under which you have taken cognisance of Justice xxx's complaint. Please also explain to me the process by which you inquired into this matter and provide me with a full copy of your investigation report so I can determine whether you have formed a proper basis for your direction to me. I will also appreciate a speaking order from your end, with full details of why you are directing me to "immediately block the link". Since I've never received such directive from anyone in India in my whole life (I resigned from IAS to fight corruption and misgovernance in India) and I don't know precisely what my legal options are in this case, I'd also be grateful if you can send me information regarding any legal options I have, to challenge your order.
5) Btw, I have no idea who has created the website xxx. This website, as you note, defames me. There are at least a few other websites in which defame me or oppose me vigorously. That is fine. Everyone is entitled to their view. No one can stop anyone from thinking and expressing their opinions, whether pleasant or otherwise. I do not waste my precious time chasing up such people. You will need to undertake your due diligence to identify that web site's owner and write to him/her separately.
I'm copying this email to a few people so everyone knows I've been directed by a senior Indian official to stop expressing my views in favour of freedom of speech and against Chinese totalitarianism being applied in India. I'm sure many Indians will be interested in knowing whether someone can strongly oppose an insult to the Indian Constitution, and a demand by an Indian judge to apply Chinese totalitarian approaches to Indians.
Please note that I strongly affirm my commitment to comply with Indian laws – even though I'm only an Overseas Citizen of India at the moment. I am also a senior leader of the Swarna Bharat Party, and fight for the liberty of all Indians, and against all oppression and corruption. I will support your fight against anything that harms India's interests. Should I find your investigation and speaking orders sufficiently clear and persuasive, I'll shut down this blog post of January 13, 2012. The fact that this post has been there for so long (2 1/2 years) suggests there is no real immediacy to comply with your directive, so I seek a prompt response from you clarifying all these points above – before deciding to comply with it with urgency.
IAS 1982 batch, resigned in 2001 to fight corruption and misgovernance
Senior Leader of Swarna Bharat Party (registered with Election Commission of India)
Executive Director India Policy Institute
Author, Breaking Free of Nehru and Discovery of Freedom
Thereafter I received strong support from someone so I wrote the following:
Thanks for your support, xxx. I do hope the press picks this up in India and USA. This is a big and long debate India needs to have. Every year, our liberties are being curtailed, one step at a time.
It is shocking that s.66A of the information technology act is so barbaric and anti-liberty.
66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
I'm not sure whether what I wrote was "grossly offensive" in any way – in fact, the judge said something grossly offensive – citing China's totalitarian regime as being suitable for the Constitutional liberal republic of India. But there is no other term in the Act which the police could have considered cause-worthy. Surely what I wrote was not menacing in any way. Calling for impeachment of a judge who wants to use Chinese precedents in India is an attempt to seek redress to constitutional remedies. It is not menacing. And what I wrote did not use any false information (s.66A(b)) – unless the judge claims that Indian Express misrepresented his words – in which case Indian Express ought to be cited (if at all!).
This issue ("grossly" offensive) might be the only legal bone of contention in this case. I will review the police report and assess their logic in this case.
But the idea that something "grossly" offensive can't be written and published is such a huge denial of basic freedom of speech. Without the right to cause (non-violent) offense, there can be no freedom of speech. We must wake up the press across the world to this draconian Indian law which wants to undo India's ENTIRE FREEDOM MOVEMENT.
Later I spoke with a senior Indian lawyer and expert who has fought valiantly against attempts to curb free speech. Based on advice received I decided to "cave in". I learnt taht this is a fight I cannot win. The ENTIRE SYSTEM is determined to DESTROY free speech. No argument in favour of human rights, basic freedoms, works in India.
So within a few hours of my earlier message/s I wrote to the ACP informing him that I've decided to BLOCK MY OWN BLOG POST! Better to fight this politically. LET THESE DRACONIAN LAWS BE CHANGED.
So I wrote to the ACP:
Dear Sh Singh
Under duress and compulsion of the Indian laws and the many misrepresentations and harrassments Indians are regularly subject to by those who wish to block Indians from thinking and speaking their mind – even for the liberty of Indians – I have decided to comply with your coercive directive and have removed the said blog post and Facebook post.
As indicated, I have no control over the other link: xxx
I was very angry when I wrote the post, and may today use different language to get the same point across. It is now 2 1/2 years since I wrote that and don't wish to spend time on this particular issue, now. I would like us, instead, to change India's SYSTEM.
I will continue to wage a battle against all restrictions on freedom of speech in India through the political process, in which I hope you will join me. Ravindranath Tagore sought a Heaven of Freedom but we are now happy for our judges to promote the Chinese way to oppress our people. That is not consistent with our freedom struggle and constitutional protections.
Please read the Sone Ki Chidiya agenda at http://sonekichidiya.in/ and join the Swarna Bharat Party (http://swarnabharat.in/) which was registered in June 2014.
I am reproducing the current version of our position regarding free speech:
Freedom of speech is the fixed star of liberty. Without it no other liberty exists. We would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. A mature democracy insists on absolute freedom of expression. It is improper for any group to impose its ‘morals’ on another so long as there is no direct harm being caused by those others. This freedom includes citizens’ right to peaceful protest – to the extent public order is not adversely affected.
We will foster citizen’s rights to absolute free speech. The only restriction to speech should relate to civil liability for libel, direct threats or direct incitement of violence, and reasonable restrictions on speech for appropriateness of audience (e.g. time-based limitations on TV programming).
To achieve such levels of freedom in India:
i. We will introduce relevant Constitutional amendments. We will assure ourselves, as Indians, the same absolute prohibition on government prevention of free speech that citizens of the USA enjoy through their First Amendment. This is an absolute right without ambiguity. For instance, when Lillian Gobitis Klose refused to salute the U.S. flag as an act of conscience, Justice Robert Jackson’s said: ‘If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.’
ii. We will review laws about national symbols and flag to bring them into consonance with freedom of speech. The rights of citizens – who express their dissent in peaceful ways – are more important and significant than the rights of a nation to protect its symbols. Symbols are one thing, freedom of conscience of the individual is absolute. India must not be slave to symbols, no matter how precious.
iii. We will repeal all laws that curtail freedom of speech (including IPC s.153A and s295A and s.66 of the IT Act that make certain online comments an offence or permit bans and censorship).
iv. We will revoke all bans on books and movies except for those involving libel and direct threats or direct incitement of violence. Further, where necessary, suitable classifications for appropriateness of audience will be provided for. We will also examine ways to democratise broadcasting services (TV, radio) on payment of market determined fee for spectrum.
v. The colonial provisions of sedition and blasphemy are inconsistent with free speech. We will amend the sedition provision (section 124A IPC) to check the recurring misuse of sedition by state authorities against political malcontents. The amendment will incorporate the Supreme Court’s interpretation in 1962 that, no matter how much the accused spreads 'disaffection' against the government, sedition can't be invoked unless he incites people to violence.
vi. Consistent with free speech, there is no requirement of any Censor Board in India. All that is need is a rating agency (that could be a film industry body) which rates films for suitability of viewing by age. Adults Indians do not need any the solicitous concern of any other Indian to tell them what they can watch and what they cannot. Such an arrangement assumes there is someone (a ‘grand-daddy’ of all of us) in India who can view what others can’t. If such person does not is fall into depravity or violence by viewing the film (before it is censored), it is preposterous to suggest that other Indian adults will depraved or violent if they do so. Let every Indian be held responsible for any violent actions they undertake. We do not want a nanny state.
vii. We are dedicated to greater internet freedom. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention. We will remove regulatory barriers to internet innovation, and prevent interference with new technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data and mobile payment systems. We object to any move and toward governance of the internet by any governmental or intergovernmental organization.
I'm letting a few people know about this, and will also make note of this coercive withdrawal of my views, on my web log (blog).
There is no point losing time in fighting a case in which I'm guaranteed to lose. The law is subject to the most SUBJECTIVE interpretation and has no avenue for appeal.
Instead, I need to continue working through the Sone Ki Chidiya agenda.
That I've "caved in" is clear evidence that something is really wrong in India. Things are pretty hopeless for Indians.
Only a political movement can fix it.
Join me in bringing liberty to India.
As Patrick Henry said: GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!
I think we need to CHANGE THE SYSTEM. Nothing less will do.