Bill to declare Pak a terror state withdrawn in Rajya Sabha

 A bill to declare Pakistan a terrorist state has been withdrawn. The bill, moved by Rajya Sabha member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar was withdrawn on Friday.

Interestingly, this development comes just a few hours a US lawmaker introduced a bill to declare Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism.

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Election verdict- Country heading towards economic transformation

rajFollowing yesterday’s verdict the markets did soar and this has brought about a smile on many faces. Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar feels that the economy today is bankrupt due to big spending towards programmes such as NREGA etc.

Chandrasekhar tells rediff.com that free spending by governments may not be a model of the past and future governments will have to be more fiscally responsible.

Continue reading “Election verdict- Country heading towards economic transformation”

SC notice on IT Act

The Supreme Court issued notices to the Government on a Public Interest Litigation filed by Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar challenging the IT Act and Rules

Continue reading “SC notice on IT Act”

Capt. Kalia case reaches UN

22_12_20_01_Saurabh_Kalia_H@@IGHT_400_W@@IDTH_570The fight to seek justice for Capt Saurabh Kalia and 5 jawans of the 4 JAT, reached the UN with the petition filed in United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by Flags of Honour Foundation, Dr. N.K.Kalia and  Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament, against war crimes and torture inflicted on Capt Saurabh Kalia and 5 Jawans during the Kargil war in 1999. The petition was filed on December 7th, 2012, with Juan E Mendez, Special Rapporteur on Torture, Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights, UN Office Geneva on 07th Dec 2012.
The petitioners urged the UNHRC to ensure a full and independent investigation is opened immediately, justice is achieved and also to conduct enquires into this matter and takes appropriate steps to urge the Government of Pakistan to conduct an enquiry into the matter and ascertain those responsible for the torture and death of Captain Kalia. Continue reading “Capt. Kalia case reaches UN”

“Government fears the internet”

Pic-en.wikipedia.org
Pic-en.wikipedia.org

The recent attacks on the freedom of internet users has become a subject matter of debate. Termed draconian and ultra vires to the Indian Constitution, the Information Technology Act more precisely, Section 66 A of the act, many have started to raise their voice seeking an amendment.  Read what Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament has to say on this subject. Continue reading ““Government fears the internet””

Reward for info on Amar Jyoti vandalisers

A reward of Rs 5 lakh was handed over to those persons who provided the police with information which finally brought the vandalisers of the Amar Jyothi Memorial.
Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar who had assured of this reward handed over a cheque to the police commissioner, Dr Satyapal Singh. The cheque was handed over by a representative of the MP, Keki Bapuna.
In a letter written to Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, Chandrasekhar said the police force have earned the respect of all citizens who value the ideals of patriotism bravery and national pride.
Chandrasekhar urged the Commissioner to hand over the reward money to the police team responsible for the investigations and arrest of the vandals.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP had announced a reward of Rupees Five Lakhs to those who provide the police with credible information leading to the arrest of those involved in the desecration of the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial.

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India’s position on internet governance hurts millions

Photo courtesy: 123rf.com

At the 66th session of the United Nations, India made a proposal to control the internet through a United Nations Committee. The government of India proposed control over the internet through the formation of CIRP {Agenda Item 16: Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT): Global Internet Governance}. This proposal is expected to come up for a discussion on May 18, 2012 in Geneva during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) meeting on the issue of enhanced cooperation etc.

Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar however has a lot of reservations over this proposal which according to him affects censorship of the internet and also curbs internet users. The Member of Parliament from Karnataka has even written to the Prime Minister opposing the same. In this chat with rediff.com, Chadrasekhar speaks about this proposal and also terms it as dangerous and ill-considered. It affects 800 Million Indian mobile users, hurts  India’s cause of freedom of expression and free speech and India’s image as a vibrant democracy.

This policy is against the open, democratic, inclusive and unhindered growth of the internet. It harms India’s reputation, has been submitted without a prior public consultation with multi-stakeholder groups, and therefore needs to be withdrawn.

India’s position (in the statement), even though cleverly worded, hurts its reputation of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and democratic society with an open economy and an abiding culture of pluralism. Further, it hurts the advancement of the internet as a vehicle for openness, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, diversity, inclusiveness, creativity, free and unhindered access to information and knowledge, global connectivity, innovation and socio-economic growth. It is fundamentally against the interest of 800 million mobile users and over 100 million internet users in India who need to play a continued role by strengthening the existing multi-stakeholder process, rather than moving internet governance to a government-run, inter-governmental, bureaucratically organized system – as proposed by India.

While this statement  has gone mostly unnoticed in India, if accepted – it will be deeply harmful to the interest of Indian citizens and hits at the very reputation of a country that was till recently seen as a model of free speech, democracy and growth amongst internet users and policy makers around the world.  The statement, unsurprisingly, is excessively defensive as being one where it will lead to governments taking over, regulating, and circumscribing the internet.

The position taken by India is wrong on many accounts. These include:

No previous public consultation with the multi-stakeholder groups that have successfully participated in the governance of the internet thus far was called for or arranged before the statement was finalized. Most members of India’s civil society, private sector, inter-governmental and international organizations as well as the technical and academic community were neither consulted nor involved in any way in formulating this statement – which inherently represents their interests and changes their role permanently, if the proposal is accepted. This betrays the most fundamental requirement of public consultation, which is mandated in most of our legislation’s and is the very basis of good governance.

The proposal shifts India’s existing stance without explaining the reasons for such a shift. If India is concerned with the control or influence of any single government over the current process, then it should explain the same in no uncertain terms. In any event, strengthening the multi-stakeholder process by reducing a certain government’s influence should not result, under any circumstances, in shifting internet’s governance into an inter-governmental, 50-member, bureaucratic set up to be based out of Geneva, serviced by a UNCTAD secretariat, and reporting to the UN General Assembly. This would reverse the existing system wherein a multi-stakeholder structure governs the internet while the government advisory council is constantly engaged with the multi-stakeholder group. In fact, at least one Indian, Ram Raj, former CEO of Sify, serves as one of the 17 directors on ICANN.

In sharp contrast, CIRP, the body proposed by India to replace the current process, seeks governance through at least 50 government bureaucrats / politicians with oversight and control over the internet, while multi-stakeholder groups will be moved into an advisory role. If anything, multi-stakeholderism should include the government. An attempt to replace a multi-stakeholder system with a multi-lateral system is a dangerous idea.

Inter-governance is a highly complex issue. It cannot be run from a government body with the UN logo. The solution lies not in governments taking charge but in strengthening the existing multi-stakeholder model from which significant benefits can be derived since it allows for equal access to decision-making for all bodies.

India’s challenges with regard to internet access have very little to do with international governance. Our issue relates to business models, multiple languages, supply and demand side barriers, cost of equipment and the absence of necessary infrastructure as well as low literacy levels. Altering the governance structure globally will not resolve the challenges that we face domestically.

The internet has been developed and designed by the technical community, supported by innovation and the private sector. The governance works through innumerable provisions and protocols that work through reciprocation. The only effective solution is to embrace and strengthen a multi-stakeholder process which allows such changes to propagate swiftly and in a broad-based manner across multiple stakeholders. The internet’s spread will certainly be hurt if governance moves to the UN top-heavy, government-controlled body.

Sadly, it is widely publicized that India’s position is closely associated with countries such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa and Rwanda etc, none of which is a sparkling example of democracy, free speech, or human rights. Unless the global reporting on this issue is inaccurate, it is clear that we will suffer tremendously by way of our reputation in being seen as associated with such countries on the issue of internet governance and, by extension, freedom of expression and free speech.

The internet has neither been built by governments nor should it be regulated by them. This sudden attempt to move internet governance into inter-governmental control is unexplained, considering the tremendous success that the internet has seen around the world and after 3G launched in India – with over 2.5 billion internet users and nearly half a million being added each day. The current governance structure does not, in any way, prevent the seven mandates that India’s proposal mentions for CIRP. India must find a way to achieve these within the multi-stakeholder arrangement or through suitable improvements rather than a radical shift.

The speed and manner in which decisions are made about internet governance is through a consensus amongst engineers and other volunteers. No state governs the internet today. There is no reason whatsoever to change what is currently free, open, and working reasonably well.

It seems that this is a position that has been inadvertently taken by some overzealous officials or officials of an unconnected ministry or without appropriate briefing / guidance. We should certainly not let a mistake / lapse in the due diligence process stand in the way of taking a mid-course correction. In the withdrawal of this proposal, India will be seen as a country with a strong sense of introspection.

Finally, a top-down, centralized, international governmental overlay is fundamentally against the architecture of the internet – which is a global network of networks without borders. No government, let alone an inter-governmental body, can make engineering and economic decisions in the lightning-fast internet time.

In India, productivity, rising living standards and the spread of freedom everywhere would be hurt as engineering and business decisions relating to the growth of the internet will become politically paralyzed within a global regulatory body. Any attempt to expand the government’s power over the internet – however incremental or seemingly innocuous – should be turned back. Modernization and reforms can be constructive, but not if the end result is a new government-controlled, global bureaucracy that departs from the multi-stakeholder model. India must draw a line and stand against such proposals while welcoming a role for further reforming the multi-stakeholder process that could even include a non-regulatory role for the ITU (UN).

The Government must move immediately on this issue. This development, about which no consultation has taken place with the stakeholders in India, has the potential to adversely affect the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Indians and also threatens their freedom and prosperity.

The Prime Minister should pass the necessary directions to immediately discuss ways for withdrawing this proposal and working with other democratic and similarly minded governments to advance the cause of freedom, growth, and empowerment of our people through the use of the internet and governed by an open, transparent, truly multi-stakeholder process.

With IT Act in place, Sibal sounds out of place

Photo courtesy: http://socialmediainfluence.com/

Pre monitoring content on social networking sites is a subject matter of debate. Kapil Sibal talks about such an action and one could say with some bit of confidence that it is something that has not been accepted by one and all, leave alone being taken in the right spirit.

The question is do we need further monitoring of the social media when laws are already in place or is it time India deals with bigger challenges such as cloud computing for which there are absolutely no laws in place.

We have an IT Act in place which came into existence in the year 2000. It is considered to be a mother legislation dealing with all data and information in the electronic form as also the use of computers. This law already has in place certain provisions. These were further amended in the year 2008. After the amendment Section 66 (A) of the amended IT act provided for a very wide offence pertaining to electronic/online defamation. This is made an offence punishable with 3 years imprisonment and fine.

Pavan Duggal, an expert on cyber laws and also an advocate in the Supreme Court who is opposed to the idea put forth by Sibal says we already have enough and more laws in place. While Section 66 (A) deals with these aspects there is also Section 67 of the IT Act which states publishing and transmission of seen electronic information is made out to be a crime. This section is also wide enough to incorporate content that is defamatory or appears to the prurient interest or the effect of which is to tend to deprave and corrupt the minds of those who are likely to see read or hear the same. This is another broad category of offence attracting 3 years of prison or Rs 5 lakh in fine. However today after the amendment the offence has become a bailable one.

Further under the IT Act the government has implanted the rules of 2011 April. These rules provide a mechanism for disabling access to defamatory content and other illegal content. Any affected person can complain to the service provider or government can notify to the service provider about the same. The service provider is mandated to act with 36 hours failing which the service provider becomes also a co accused and a co abettor and could face civil and criminal exposure under IT Act and also the Indian Penal Code.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament points out that if Kapil Sibal and Co were really serious about protecting people from defamation on the net, they would first of all read the IT act – there is a section there that allows a victim to legally pursue his/her claim of defamation – its a strong legal provision – and after reading it and understanding it they would then ensure they run a public awareness program – so that victims can then pursue their cases on their own.

This man is a lawyer and he hasn’t read the laws that exist? Are we destined to be governed by people who don’t read, don’t understand and only pander to fears and vote banks and rely on spin/obfuscation as their only tool? :

Duggal further adds that we already have a mechanism in place. Now after the amendment we have in place a few categories designed as intermediaries under Section 2 (1) (w) of the IT Act. This is very vast to include all social media service providers. Under Section 79 of the IT Act, these social media companies are mandated to do due diligence while discharging their obligations under the law. Further they are also mandated to comply with rules and regulations

Once we have this in place, where is the logic for further regulations of social media. Further any kind of regulation of social media is likely to have a prejiducial impact upon the freedom of speech and expression. Now the minister has talked in terms of pre monitoring content which is an extremely difficult exercise given the continuously growing size of social media. Today there more than crores of messages and tweets per day are generated by all social media platforms from India alone. Pre monitoring all such content is not only technologically but also humanly impossible. When you look at laws across the world almost all laws have touched on the aspect post publication period. Once material is published it could be taken down and the author prosecuted. None of the laws talk of the pre publication phase. This is because it not only spells death knell of real time communication, but also that the same is not even warranted by laws of countries in the actual world. Today almost all across the world the speeches or what is spoken is not pre monitored. Hence what is not done in the actual world cannot also not be done on the internet.

There is an inherent flawed approach. Further such an exercise is likely to impact the privacy rights of citizens. Rather than amending the law and making it more in sync with the current level of technological development, the minister is talking about over regulation of social media which even the main legislation does not speak about.

With cloud computing now coming in the law needs to be beefed. Rather than beefing the law we are thinking in another direction.

10 ways to ensure we have a smooth Parliament

pic by-vhv.org.in

The Indian Parliament has been in the news for quite some time and it is more to do with the fact that it is disrupted more often than it actually sits down to discuss something. While political parties continue to battle each other the fact remains that a lot of precious time is being wasted as a result of which the common man’s problems are never addressed.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar who has been extremely vocal about issues such as this and also the 2g Spectrum scam also feels that precious time is being wasted. He feels that there is a need to create special sessions of parliament twice a year apart form the normal sessions in which only issues pertaining to legislation and also issues of national interest agenda must be discussed. The MP jots down ten different points which he feels if followed, Parliament could function normally.

Ten ways on how Parliament can function in light of disruptions

Government accepts that it has a credibility deficit and each of the issues it proposes needs to be communicated and people need to be convinced about the initiative. -Avoid arrogance or be faced with partisanship. Governments learns an important rule about Policy making in a coalition environment – Consensus, Consensus, Consensus.
-Government learns the second important rule about Policy making – Transparency ie Transparent advocacy of pros and cons of a public policy. 
-Government must conduct workshops and briefings outside Parliament for MPs on all sensitive/divisive policy issues
 -Political parties must create a Common National interest Agenda – that covers Poverty, Economy, National security – on which there is clear consensus from day one.
-Create special sessions of Parliament twice a year – separate from the normal parliamentary sessions where only legislation and issues relating to National interest agenda are discussed – these can be the occasions for Parliament to have MPs work together for National interest without partisanship.
-Open up Standing Committee proceedings to public – either by way of transcripts or public broadcasting.
-Make sure all divisive policy issues are debated openly in Parliament so that people of India can understand who stands for what. Don’t use the power of Cabinet decisions to make sensitive issues as law or policy.
-Parliament must use the power of debates and VOTING on issues and not adjournment. Debates and voting must become the norm, adjournments the exception. Debates without Voting are not useful.
-On sensitive issues, Parties must not use whips – Each MP must vote his conscience and his belief.

-Parliament must exercise its right of oversight over Government and do so in a manner that people trust the judgement of Parliament.