The government issued orders to block 2341 URLs in 2014, an official response to an RTI application shows. The RTI was filed by Delhi-based non-profit legal services organisation Software Freedom Law Center India (SFLC.in) last month to Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), which falls under the Ministry of Communications and IT.
While the number of URL blocking orders stood at 2341 last year, the same number in 2013 was 1349 – indicating a rise of 73%. The same number stood at 708 in 2012. The application sought answers on blocking orders issued variously pursuant to court orders, requests from government departments, and requests from private parties. The DeitY response says that “barring a few numbers, all URLs were blocked on the orders of the court.” Moreover, the number of URLs ordered to be unblocked were 32 in 2014 and 4 in 2012. No URLs were unblocked in 2013.
“Further, as per the provisions of Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguard for locking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, notified under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act 2000, the requests and complaints received and actions taken thereof are strictly confidential,” the reply adds.
SFLC.in, which uploaded the RTI and the replies on its website, has said in an accompanying blog that the government needs to review its stance on confidentiality, particularly in the light of the apex court’s observations when striking down section 66 A of the IT Act. It says that the SC “invited attention to several safeguards incorporated into Section 69A – one amongst them being that reasons behind blocking orders are to be recorded in writing in the orders themselves so that they may be challenged by means of writ petitions…However, one fails to understand how such a writ petition might be filed so long as the blocking orders are kept confidential. Rule 16 therefore renders an important safeguard in the content-blocking process ineffective.