Why IIPM chief is setting wrong precedent by blocking URLs

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Arindam Chaudhuri
New Delhi, Feb 16: Of late, freedom of expression in India has come under scanner as religious groups and political leaders are adamant on muzzling the voices of artistes, filmmakers and writers. Latest to join the group of gagging freedom of expression is Arindam Chaudhuri, head of business school Indian Institute of Planning & Management (IIPM).

After Chaudhuri approached a court in Gwalior, the Indian government has ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent access to more than 73 URLs (including University Grants Commission), which are critical of IIPM and its works.

India's Department of Telecommunications on Friday, Feb 15 issued instructions to Internet Service Licensees to block access to 78 URLs from India, and the list contains 73 URLs which are anti-IIPM.  The order is signed by Subodh Saxena of the DoT.

The entire episode is unprecedented. Social networking sites are abuzz with posts on government's move to block anti-IIPM URLs. #IIPM was the trending topic on Twitter. Twitter users have slammed the blocking.

Even all the main national newspapers wrote critical pieces on blocking of urls.

However, the man at the centre of the controversy has welcomed the decision of the court.

"The matter is sub judice and I should ideally not be saying much; yet, let me make five simple points. Last year, one of our channel partners had filed a suit against Google and submitted to various ISPs information on certain articles (that he considered defamatory and were affecting his business) about IIPM on the Internet. After hearing the suit, the Hon'ble Court had asked Google to remove those links as they were found to be defamatory in nature. However, Google failed to comply with the order and subsequently, the Hon'ble Court asked ICERT to block those defamatory URLs till further orders. It also issued a notice to IIPM to be one of the respondents. We shall file our reply in the Hon'ble Court soon," said IIPM head, who is also an author and economist.

"As far as satire sites are concerned, I neither have any objections on any non-defamatory satire, nor would I have filed anything against them were I to do the same personally. In a democracy, satire is basic freedom of speech. However, I am glad that defamatory links that had been put up with a malicious intent have been ordered to be removed, as should be the case in any functional democracy."

Some of the tweets critical on the blocking of URLs are

"Was told @arindam_iipm moved DoT to ban all i wrote on IIPM. Pls RT till he bans this: IIPM's a scam, ponytail's a fraud," reads a tweet from @maheshmurthy.

"@onlinesneh @realarindam : O Damn , ppl willing to work for IIPM! bas bhagwan ab utha lo , ghor Kalyug aa gaya hai !!!," reads a tweet from @nicks_663.

"IIPM - Indian Institute of Parasite Management!," reads a tweet from @IndieSu.

"@rameshsrivats IIPM critiques have been blocked nd dis storm. Wat abt J&K when internet itself was blocked. Double standards hmm," reads a tweet from @abdul_khan1.

"IIPM-this is how over smartness comes to bite u in the bck! U blocked sme,angred al nd crashed nd burned. Even China doesn't Gt away wth ths," reads a tweet from @101shreyas.

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