The government of India’s order to ban 59 Chinese apps may not be legal if one goes by the India IT Act, according to Internet Freedom Foundation, an internet policy think tank.
The Ministry of Information Technology, on June 29, banned 59 mobile apps, saying they are engaged in activities which are "prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order." This includes popular apps such as Tiktok, Shareit and CamScanner.
But Internet Freedom Foundation, in a statement, said that the Ministry of Electronics and Communication’s order to ban the 59 Chinese apps is not a legal order under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
“The website blocks are directed in an aggregated basis against 59 websites. Here common grounds and reasoning is made which goes against the individualised nature of the blocking power under Section 69A and the Blocking Rules,” the statement added.
Section 69A of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008, allows the Central Government to block content where it believes that a particular content threatens the security of the State; the sovereignty, integrity or defence of India; friendly relations with foreign States; public order; or to prevent incitement for the commission of a cognisable offence relating to any of the above.
The section also lays down the protocols that needed to be followed before blocking the content/website in question.
However IFF argues that such procedure was not followed. “The Blocking Rules, 2009 specifically provide for a defined process of notice, hearing and a reasoned order. These processes emerge from the Shreya Singhal judgement and apply to all grounds for blocking, including those premised on national security,” the statement added.
Though there are concerns related to data security and citizen’s privacy, these actions lack of transparency and disclosure, the statement said.
This (data security and privacy) may be achieved through regulatory processes that emerge from objective, evidence based measures. This ensures credible action that protects, individual liberty, innovation and security interests,” the statement.