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How child rights body NCPCR is justifying censorship of Rahul Gandhi, Congress politicians

Twitter

The NCPCR cited laws restricting media and the general public from publishing identifying details of minors as statutory grounds in addition to orders delivered by various courts. 

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has sent Twitter four notices to censor tweets by Rahul Gandhi and Congress politicians, MediaNama has learned. Gandhi’s Twitter handle was locked since NCPCR objected to him posting a picture with the parents of a child in Delhi who was raped and murdered. Priyank Kanoongo, the chair of the child rights body, posted a partially redacted first page of the letter on Twitter; MediaNama has obtained the full letter, and also obtained a list of subsequent tweets from senior Congress leaders that the NCPCR demanded Twitter remove. NCPCR argued that the picture, which did not depict the minor, still contained too much information about her, and should therefore be removed.

The commission also reached out to Facebook to take down similar posts by Congress politicians on that platform and Instagram, the Times of India reported. We have filed for records of this notice to NCPCR.

The censorship of Gandhi’s and INC politicians’ social media presence comes as the government deals with the fallout of the Pegasus Project revelations, which uncovered alleged surveillance of political leaders, journalists, activists, judges, and law enforcement officials. Twitter has said that it would not censor accounts belonging to activists, journalists, and politicians; but it appears that with the action against accounts belonging to Gandhi and other senior Congress officials, that promise is wearing thin.

We have reached out to Twitter for comments.

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NCPCR’s justification

The main legal justification outlined by NCPCR to censor Gandhi’s and other politician’s tweets was that they ran afoul of the following laws:

All three laws restrict media and the general public from publishing identifying details of minors. “No report […] shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim,” the Juvenile Justice Act’s provision says. (emphasis supplied) “No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child,” the POCSO provision says. (emphasis supplied)

Supreme Court precedent

In addition to the statutory grounds, NCPCR cited a Supreme Court judgement, Nipun Saxena v. Union of India, where the court held in 2019 that:

  1. No person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the victim or even in a remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large.
  2. In cases where the victim is dead or of unsound mind the name of the victim or her identity should not be disclosed even under the authorisation of the next of the kin, unless circumstances justifying the disclosure of her identity exist, which shall be decided by the competent authority, which at present is the Sessions Judge. (emphasis supplied)

NCPCR also invoked a Bombay High Court judgment (it is unclear which one) where that court prohibited social media users from “publish[ing]/disclos[ing] information in such a manner that the victim will be identified directly or indirectly.”

“Therefore, posting of the photo of the minor victim’s family on the said Twitter handle has been observed by the Commission to be a violation of [the laws cited above] and the guidelines of the Hon’ble Court as well,” NCPCR wrote. “Accordingly, the complaint is being forwarded for taking appropriate action against the Twitter Handle @RahulGandhi for violation of provisions of [the laws cited above] and removal of the Twitter post from the platform,” the letter concluded, requesting an “action taken report” from Twitter within three days. We have reached out to NCPCR to obtain a copy of the action taken report, in case Twitter submitted it.

Who else was censored

Apart from Rahul Gandhi, tweets from the following party officials and volunteers were censored by Twitter in India. While the tweets remain visible from the rest of the world (like Gandhi’s own tweet), at least six leaders’ accounts have been locked from posting further. The following accounts’ individual tweets have been blocked and were mostly screenshots of Gandhi’s original tweets. This is not a full list, and only includes people who have identified themselves as Congress members on their profiles, or are otherwise notable:

  • Randeep Singh Surjewala, General Secretary, Indian National Congress
  • Gaurav Pandhi, National Coordinator, Digital Communications & Social Media, INC
  • KB Byju, part of Rahul Gandhi’s Team
  • Saurabh Rai, National Co-Coordinator, Digital Media, INC
  • Ruchira Chaturvedi, National Convenor of Social Media, INC
  • Hasiba Amin, National Convenor of Social Media, INC
  • Gourav Vallabh, National Spokesperson, Congress
  • Ajay Maken, AICC General Secretary
  • Ripun Bora, MP Rajya Sabha
  • Anil Chaudhary, President, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee
  • KC Venugopal, MP Rajya Sabha and General Secretary
  • Manickam Tagore, AICC in charge of Telangana
  • Sushmita Dev, Former Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
  • Rajani Patil, AICC In Charge, Jammu & Kashmir
  • Pranav Jha, AICC Secretary, in charge of Communications
  • Pawan Khera, National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress
  • Dr. A Chella Kumar, Lok Sabha MP from Krishnagiri
  • Balasaheb Thorat, Congress Legislature Party Leader, Maharashtra
  • Rohan Gupta, Chairman, Social Media Department, Indian National Congress
  • Roman D’Souza, Fellow, All India Professionals’ Congress
  • Vinod Soni, District Coordinator, INC (Babarpur)
  • Champak Shrimali, General Secretary Block Congress Committee, Palanpur, Gujarat
  • Nikhil Alva, Filmmaker, Musician, Writer
  • M Shashidhar Reddy, Chairman, Telangana Congress Covid-19 Task Force
  • Abhishek Dutt, National Media Panelist, INC
  • Digambar Kamat, Leader of Opposition, Goa Legislative Assembly
  • Samrat Dhingra, Punjab State Social Media Coordinator, INC
  • Sandeep Singh Rissam, General Secretary, Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Youth Congress
  • Abhay Dubey, National Media Coordinator, AICC
  • Babulal Namdeo Bagul, Maharashtra Legislature Deputy Secretary (Retd.)
  • Mohd Asif Naqeeb, General Secretary, DCC
  • @MehulCongress, General Secretary, Ahmedabad City Congress IT Cell
  • Dr. Sirivella Prasad, AICC Secretary In Charge of Tamil Nadu
  • Nagaland Congress (@INCNagaland), Mumbai Congress (@INCMumbai), Maharashtra Congress (@INCMaharashtra), Gujarat Congress (@INCGujarat), and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (@INCRajasthan)
  • Dr. Arvind Chaturvedi, District Spokesperson, Congress Amethi
  • Rajkumar Dubey, Goregaon (Mumbai) Social Media Taluka President
  • Chitra Batham, National Social Media Coordinator, Mahila Congress

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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