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MeitY’s Review Committee Hasn’t Revoked A Single Section 69A Order Since 2009, RTI Reveals

Its lack of independence can be a factor, even as Section 69A of the IT Act has been criticized for sweeping internet censorship powers

Not a single Section 69A blocking order issued by the government since 2009 has been revoked by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) Review Committee, reveals an RTI response filed by investigative journalist Saurav Das published by BOOM. Neither MeitY nor the Committee’s Chair keeps records on the Committee’s work, another RTI by Das reveals. The Review Committee is in charge of assessing the validity of past blocking orders issued under Section 69A of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). Constituted under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, it is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, and comprises two other members, the Secretaries for the Departments of Legal Affairs and Telecommunications. It meets at least once every two months and ‘if it thinks that directions are not in accordance with Section 69A, it may issue orders that revoke previous [blocking] orders issued by the IT Secretary.’  Section 69A empowers the government to block information online in order to protect the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order.’ Failing to comply with a Section 69A order could result in fines and up to seven years of imprisonment for an intermediary. It could also lapse an intermediary’s safe harbour under Section 79 of the IT Act, which protects them against liability for unlawful third-party content hosted on their platform.  Why it matters: The Committee ostensibly exists to ensure that Section 69A Orders are not arbitrarily enforced.…

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