Update: Legal voices on Twitter have pointed out that the legal notice that Vidyut received is stupid, as Vidyut is the author, not an intermediary, and the IT bill applies only to intermediaries. This means, that she does not have to take down her content, but the lawyers can make her ISP block her website if she does not, yes, without a court hearing. In short, the IT bill is evil, but has not legally been used against her yet. It has been used, but it was a stupid, uninformed illegal use.
A blogger and dear friend Vidyut Kale had written a post about the raid on the Belvedere yacht party, where she also exposed a history of financial misdoings by Lt Col (retd) Gautam Dutta. She has received a take down notice for her article being defamatory. The IT Rules are so arbitrary that she has no chance to defend herself against the takedown, because no explanation or even verification of the premise of the take down notice being correct is required.
Anyone getting the takedown notice is legally required to take their content down within 36 hours or they lose protections as intermediaries.
While she is also the author, her position as the owner of the blog makes her vulnerable to these threats if her blog is to survive. She has no experience of fighting court cases, and can’t afford a lawyer, while the persons sending her the notice have a large law firm at their command. It is not defamation if her content is provable through RTI documents, but to prove it, she will have to violate the IT Rules, lose protection and fight several years in court – to save a post that exposes corruption in sailing on technicalities lawyers can exploit for people with the money to throw, while bloggers can be victimized out of any serious truth seeking by the simple virtue of not having enough money.
She is the same blogger that blogged to draw attention to the Keenan and Reuben murders when mainstream media had reported the story and let it go. Her efforts led to large-scale media attention that helped the poor families get attention to their case and prevent the killers from going scot-free. This can be verified by searching for Keenan and Reuben, and her blog – aamjanata.com is one of the top results. Two posts she did compiling news coverage was extensively refered to by others covering the case. She raised questions that were important to not be ignored.
She has also reported on and followed the case of Naina Singh’s dowry death, where the police were refusing to file an FIR. She created a group of people to support Naina’s mother as well as found local lawyers (Delhi) who would help her approach courts to get directions for filing an FIR. The FIR was filed five months after Naina Singh’s death.
She has blogged extensively on issues of national interest, freedom of speech and human rights.
In reporting stories from the RTI documents related to sailing scams she was again covering an area that is not big enough for mainstream media, but an important leak of money as well as integrity for the country. Not to mention the illegal practices around sailing making it a security risk through norms of “looking the other way”.
VIdyut, who is a housewife and has little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burn. for daring expose corrupt practices. This is a very concerning sign for freedom of speech and whistle blowing in our country. Any media attention highlighting her situation and precarious situation of smaller content producers in India like bloggers, independent artists, cartoonists, etc and the role played by the IT Rules will go a long way in protecting their rights and drawing attention to their victimization.
MP P Rajeeve is moving a motion in the Rajya Sabha for the IT Rules to be annulled for being unconstitutional, but without appropriate attention, it may not happen or may be too late for many like her.
I have known Vidyut now for some two years, initially drawn to the fire in her writings and tweets, and then getting to know her as a dear and dependable friend.
It saddens me that the IT bill is striking so close to home, and I hope sincerely for Vidyut’s sake and for the sake of the freedom of expression in general that the IT bill gets annulled and this case gets the treatment it deserves.
Imagine if you had to tear down your house just because your neighbour alleged that it was irritating him. Yes, it is that bad, no court needs to convict Vidyut for her to take down the content, and if the lawyer is not satisfied by that, her blog. All it takes is to register a case and send a notice to her ISP.
Thanks to helpful lawyers we know now that the IT bill’s invocation against Vidyut was an error or a threat tactic by Mr. Gupta’s Lawyers, but the sword of the IT bill still hangs on her head, if she does not comply with the notice, they can easily get the ISP to block her site, no case nothing needed. I hope, of course that this does not happen, and at lease one of the swords hanging over her head is removed by the end of the day today.
Spread this message – email it to your friends, post it on Facebook, the IT bill needs to go, and if it doesnt, our freedom will.