Chennai, Jun 10: Popular carnatic music vocalist T M Krishna has moved the Madras High Court challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
The noted culture and political commentator sought the court to declare the new rules ultra vires of the Constitution and the parent Information Technology Act, as these norms, among other things, imposes a "chilling effect" on free speech and are vague and indeterminate.
His petition, which also pleaded for grant of an interim stay on the new rules notified on February 25, 2021 came up before the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy for hearing on Thursday.
After hearing initial arguments, the bench directed Krishna's counsel to serve Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan, a copy of the petition for the Centre to file its counter affidavit.
According to the petitioner, winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award in 2016, the new rules breached equality of law, freedom to speech, expression, practise any profession and protection of life and personal liberty, contravening fundamental rights guaranteed in Constitution.
Also, the new rules are ultra vires the IT Act 2000 as well, as no part of that legislation confers power on the Union Ministry of Information to regulate digital news media or online content producers.
Krishna said the new rules offended his right as an artist and cultural commentator by both "imposing a chilling effect on free speech and by impinging on my right to privacy," and sought to declare the new rules null and void.
For him, privacy, like music itself, is an experience and "when I think of privacy, I think of life, intimacy, experience, discovery, security, happiness, the lack of fear and the freedom to create."
The Supreme Court's judgment of 2017 had recognised that the right to privacy was implicit in the guarantee of a right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The apex court had acknowledged the fact that privacy for an artist is a must and there is an artist in every human being. Without privacy it is impossible to create and perform.
The Constitution contains a "commitment to the liberty of imagination. Censorship sans reason offends this commitment. It is in furtherance of my rights to freedom of expression and privacy that I am filing the writ petition."
The impugned rules are vague and indeterminate, would thwart artists from raising difficult questions against existing aesthetic, gender and caste hierarchies in Carnatic music, and would prevent dissenters who question prevailing cultural mores.
A reading of the Code of Ethics makes it impossible to understand what would be considered by the union government as acceptable speech in the online world.
Determining what is acceptable is not the sole prerogative of the government and it ought to be fashioned in accordance with the Constitutional scheme, which the rules fail to do.
Assailing aspects that could restrict speech on "unconstitutional grounds," the petitioner cited for instance, the Inter Departmental Committee.
This panel would be at liberty to recommend to the central government that it found a speech to be offensive and ought to be removed, although the Constitution permitted no such restriction.
The new rules imposed burdens on artists and cultural commentators and critiques, Krishna said.
The case would be heard after four weeks, the bench said. While notifying the rules, the Centre had said these norms, "substantially empower the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievances and command accountability in case of infringement of their rights."
The new rules have already been challenged in the High Courts of Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala.
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Bengaluru, Jun 12: Karnataka police on Saturday said they have busted a Rs 290 crore plus scam that involved duping people through a mobile app after promising attractive interest on investment and two Chinese nationals were among the nine arrested.
The scam, aided by shell companies, is linked to money laundering and the suspected kingpin is a Kerala based business man with proximity to Chinese 'hawala' operators, they said.
Cyber Crime Division of CID said it has arrested accused persons, including two Chinese nationals, two Tibetans and five others acting as directors of the companies involved, and a search is on for the rest.
A complaint from Razor pay Software Private Limited said accused persons availed 'payment solutions' from them, claiming that they are in gaming, social and e-commerce businesses.
They, however, defrauded the company by using computer resources and by deviating from their original, registered line of business, the plaint said.
They started routing their transactions to collect payments from a different business named "Powerbank", an app listed in Google Playstore, cyber police said in a release.
Through customer complaints, the complainant company got to know that public invested money in the "Powerbank" app to earn interest on the invested amount.
The accused persons, after accepting the investments, neither gave the agreed interest nor the principal amount and cheated customers.
A case was registered under the Information Technology Act and 420 IPC (Cheating), the CCD said and added that the investigating team were successful in arresting nine men.
During investigation, it was found that Anas Ahmed, a Kerala based businessman, is the main person involved.
"We have also identified that he has very proximate connections with the Chinese hawala operators, which has come to light during the course of the investigation.
He had opened shell companies in the name of Bull Finch Technologies, H & S ventures and Clifford ventures to route the fraud money. Anas Ahamed is married to Chinese national and incidentally he did his studies in China," police said in the release.
Online applications hosted by him were later camouflaged and converted into different apps including Power Bank application, seeking investment from the public and promising good returns, the CCD said.
An unusual spike was seen in investments on the day Anees Ahmed announced much higher returns.
Subsequently, such apps were removed from Google Playstore and other websites and he absconded with the money.
Investigation showed Rs 290 crore inflow into his bank accounts and the CCD was successful in freezing a significant portion of it. There was a huge spike in opening of shell companies since November 2020.
"We have also observed that the Chinese handlers are in possession of a huge number of shell companies and bank accounts. Lured by the offer of the Chinese nationals, many innocent Indians and Tibetans have fallen in their trap to open shell companies and open bank accounts for them."