1) Nine-pin bowling aimed at free speech, privacy

GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Context :  The author argues that the new rules i.e. Information Technology Rules, 2021 being implemented by govt. go against landmark judicial precedents upholding key rights.

There are ambiguities

  • Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 threatens to deprive social media platforms of their immunity with non-compliance of the rules.
  • There are both positive aspects, and also ambiguities and stifling susceptibilities that should render these contrary to past Supreme Court of India precedents such as K.S. Puttaswamy.
  • The Rules are useful as mandate duties such as :

              removal of non-consensual intimate pictures within 24 hours,

          publication of compliance reports to increase transparency,   

          dispute resolution mechanism for content removal and

          adding a label to information for users to know whether content is advertised, owned, sponsored or exclusively controlled.

Gagging a right:

  •  Supreme Court, in the case of Life Insurance Corpn. Of India vs Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992) said that ‘any attempt to stifle, suffocate or gag this right would sound a death knell to democracy’ and would ‘help usher in autocracy or dictatorship’.
  • Therefore it becomes increasingly important to critically scrutinise the recent barriers being imposed via these Rules against our right to free speech and expression.
  • Rules were framed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY). The Second Schedule of the Business Rules, 1961 does not empower MeiTY to frame regulations for ‘digital media.’
  • This power belongs to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  •  This action violates the legal principle of ‘colourable legislation’ where the legislature cannot do something indirectly if it is not possible to do so directly.
  •  Information Technology Act, 2000, does not regulate digital media. This makes the Rules ultra vires to the Act.

Fair recourse, privacy issues

  • An intermediary is now supposed to take down content within 36 hours upon receiving orders from the Government. This deprives the intermediary of a fair recourse in the event that it disagrees with the Government’s order due to a strict timeline.
  • Thus it hampers free speech by fixing the Government as the ultimate adjudicator of objectionable speech online.
  • These Rules undermine the right to privacy by imposing a traceability requirement. The immunity that users received from end-to-end encryption was that intermediaries did not have access to the contents of their messages.
  • Imposing this mandatory requirement of traceability will break this immunity.
  • All the data from these conversations vulnerable to attack from ill-intentioned third parties. The threat here is not only one of privacy but to the extent of invasion and deprivation from a safe space.

On fake news

  • The problem here is that to eliminate fake news — rather than defining its ambit as a first step, the Rules proceed to hurriedly take down whatever an arbitrary, ill-decisioned, biased authority may deem as “fake news”.
  • Rules create additional operational costs for intermediaries by requiring them to have Indian resident nodal officers, compliance officers and grievance officers. Intermediaries are also required to have offices located in India.
  •  Rules place a barrier on the “marketplace of ideas” and also on the economic market of intermediaries in general by adding  financial burdens.

Way Forward:

By rapidly diluting right to free speech are only those of caution — of a warning that democracy stands undermined in direct proportion to every attack made on the citizen’s right to have a private conversation, to engage in a transaction, to dissent, to have an opinion and to articulate the same without any fear of being imprisoned.

2) Culture, increasingly fractured and unplanned

GS 1: urbanization, their problems and their remedies

Background: The author in the article talks about  the Central Vista project and emphaises that the urban planning for a single, linked cultural district seems to have been tossed out.

What is the Issue?

  • “Central Vista Redevelopment Project”, that the National Museum of India will occupy South Block offices of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of External Affairs, as well as the North Block offices of the Home and Finance Ministries.
  • The Parliament House building designed by Edwin Lutyens is to be turned into museum, known as a ‘museum of democracy’.
  • The new residences and offices of the Prime Minister and the Vice-President of India are to be positioned at the bottom of Raisina Hill, sandwiching the cultural plaza between the most high security premises in the country.
  • Rajpath will be closed, and restricted access to this public space is inevitable whenever there is any movement of very important persons.
  • The design by Lutyens formed a cultural district, set within public gardens,  Raisina Hill  at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the one side, and historic Purana Qila beyond India Gate on the other.

Disaggregation as leitmotif

  • The educational arm of the Museum, called the National Museum Institute, deemed a University, has been relocated to Noida while the Archaeological Survey of India’s prized collections have been relegated to Greater Noida.
  • The National Museum’s collections may also have to be split up: some in the Red Fort, some in storage, some awaiting their new home. Disaggregation, rather than unification of India’s cultures and communities seems to be the leitmotif.
  • The relocation of our National Museum provides an opportunity to think through its narrative at a decisive moment when India needs to see what it is projecting through its display, and be aware of whom it is leaving out, or relegating to different parts of the city.
  •  Our history museums on the other hand serve to provide information as deemed appropriate by archaeologists of the early 20th century.
  • Museums must serve the requirement of telling multiple histories from varied perspectives for diverse audiences.

Handle with care

  • What does shifting a museum practically mean? The National Museum contains fragile Harappan terracottas, the ashes of the Buddha and sculptures as fine as filigree. At the same time it has sculptures that weigh many tonnes requiring a feat of engineering to shift. There are bronzes: from the iconic “Dancing Girl” to Chola bronzes, coins and more coins of gold, silver, copper and bronze from every epoch of Indian history etc.
  •  The sheer scale of arranging for the packing and moving each of these items will present a logistical nightmare.
  • The author advises that every single object to have its own special packing case and fragile objects had data loggers within climate-controlled cases objects can be given a barcode number which was connected to an online location index that allowed curators.
  • The inventory is to be safeguarded. Insurance indemnification will help the preservation better.
  • Finding qualified specialists for the same purpose is tough therefore vacancies for 92 posts at the National Museum had to be closed a couple of years ago.

The choices ahead

  • The author gives an eaxmple of Los Angeles County Museum of Art which had to be shut down. Rebuilding that museum cost over $750 million.
  • Refurbishing old buildings such as the North and South Blocks to provide the facilities necessary costs money and takes time. It requires exceptional skill of architects.
  • The largest Pallava and Chola sculptures in the National Museum weigh many tonnes, putting stress on heritage buildings.
  • In a recent appeal made to the Supreme Court ,the government’s lawyers argued that the buildings were structurally unsafe and “are ill-equipped to meet even the basic fire and earthquake safety norms”.
  • None of the details are publicly available yet. Perhaps the courts and Parliament will decide it is not wise to split an entire cultural district at this moment in time.


This move offers us an unprecedented opportunity to build our nation’s capacities in the field of museum management like never before. Either way, the epitome of our collective wealth as a nation is in the balance.


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