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Manipur: Why did the Center ask social media companies to remove videos from Manipur? Know about section 69(A)

Pankaj Prasad
Protest against Manipur Violence
Protest against Manipur Violence

The video of the incident which happened more than two months ago went viral on Wednesday, 19th July.

There is anger and resentment across the country after a video of women being paraded naked and allegedly gang-raped in Manipur surfaced. Massive protests are also taking place in Manipur. Amidst all this, the central government has asked Twitter and other social media platforms to remove videos related to the case. The Center has given this order under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

At the same time, in response to the demand of the government, many users who shared the video have been blocked in India. Let us know what happened in Manipur after all? Why did the Center ask to remove the video related to the incident? What is section 69(a) of the IT Act? Can it be used anytime?

What happened in Manipur after all?

Amidst the ongoing violence in Manipur, a video surfaced in which women are being paraded naked. The incident took place at village B. Phenom in Kangpokpi district, about 35 km from state capital Imphal.

According to the complaint lodged by the village head, on May 4 at around 3 pm, 900-1000 armed men belonging to various organizations entered B.K. Phenom forcefully entered the village. The violent mob first ransacked and set fire to all the houses. Later, three women here were forced to take off their clothes by the same mob and were stripped naked in front of the mob. The brutality did not stop here, a 21-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped in broad daylight. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old younger brother who came to save his sister was killed on the spot. However, the victim managed to escape from the spot with the help of some people. After the video surfaced, the police arrested four accused.

Why did the Center ask to remove the video related to the incident?

The video of the incident, which happened more than two months ago, went viral on Wednesday, 19 July. Meanwhile, the central government asked Twitter and other social media platforms to remove the video. According to the information, tweets of some accounts sharing the video have been blocked in India in response to the government's demand. In this regard, a senior government official said, "Some links were shared with social media companies to remove the video, as it may further disrupt the law and order situation in the state."

In fact, the Center has the power under Section 69(a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 to issue orders to social media companies to remove content.

What is section 69(a) of the IT Act?

Section 69 of the IT Act allows the government to issue removal orders to online intermediaries such as Internet service providers (ISPs), telecom service providers, web hosting services, search engines, online marketplaces, etc. The information or material to be removed as per the section is considered to be a threat to the national security, sovereignty or law and order of India.

As per rules, any request made by the government is referred to a review committee. Further this committee issues these instructions. Blocking orders issued under section 69(a) of the IT Act are generally confidential in nature.

What has the Supreme Court said on Section 69(A)?

In a landmark 2015 judgment, the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India. It provided for punishment for sending objectionable messages through communication services, etc. Section 69A of the Information Technology Rules 2009 was also challenged in the petition, but the Supreme Court held it to be constitutionally valid.

The court said, 'It will be seen that unlike section 66A, section 69A is a limited provision with several safeguards. First and foremost, this decision can be taken only where the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary to do so. The Court had also said that the reasons for such restraining order should be recorded in writing.

What is the stand of the Center on this?

In its affidavit in response to a petition in December 2021, the Center had clarified its stand on this section. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had said that Section 69A of the Act mainly applies to matters relating to national security and public order.