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The IIPM-DoT controversy currently raging in India once again sparks the freedom of expression and web censorship debate, with the government's power to control access to information in question, hotly contested by media channels.
Hackers group Anonymous briefly hacked and took down websites of The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) after the Department of Telecom (DoT) ordered the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) blocking of 73 URLs that featured content against the private business school and its director Arindam Chaudhri. The IIPM director has also responded to the ongoing controversy, saying he is happy defamatory links with malicious interests were taken down.
According to a Times of India report, the websites IIPM.in and IIPM.edu were down for about nine hours due to the attack. At the time of writing this news, both the websites are live.
Here's what Anonymous said on Twitter:
Earlier, following a Gwalior district court order, the DoT had directed the ISPs to block the URLs. The list of the 73 URLs to be blocked astonishingly included a July 2012 notice from the University Grants Commission (UGC) that said:
“It is hereby informed to the public at large and students that Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) is not a University within the meaning of Section 2(f) of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. Further, as per Section 22 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) does not have the right of conferring or granting degrees as specified by the University Grants Commission under Section 22(3) of the University Grants Commission Act. It is further clarified for information that Indian Institute of Planning and Management is neither entitled to award MBA/BBA/BCA degree nor it is recognized by UGC.”
A PDF version of the UGC message is available though, and can be read through Google Docs.
According to a Wikipedia entry titled 'Indian Institute of Planning and Management advertising and blogging controversy', the blocked URLs include articles of news portals like Outlook, Careers 360, The Caravan and others. Check out the Wikipedia entry here.
Screenshot of a website blocked, courtesy TheHindu
Blocking of the UGC page and other URLs containing criticism of IIPM has sparked a new round of controversy with the issue of freedom of expression once again coming to the limelight.
“Our biggest concern is that DoT has taken this action by itself. We haven’t been informed about this notice. In the conventional course, we expect it to inform the said media houses. So, at the first instance, we will take this matter up with DoT itself, and if further needed, we will take legal action also,” LiveMint quotes The Caravan editor Anant Nath as saying.
Reports suggest the government was a party to the defamation suit
As per the latest round of development, Firstpost quotes Arindam Chaudhuri as saying : “...Google failed to comply by the order and subsequently, the Hon’ble Court asked ICERT to block the those defamatory URLs till further orders after hearing the application filed by him and issued notice to IIPM to be as one of the respondent as well and we shall file our reply in the Hon’ble Court.”
“With respect to UGC links, I would say UGC and AICTE are organisations full of bribe-seeking corrupt people where even at the top they have a track record of being caught red handed and being jailed. The standard of education they have created in the nation is shameful, to say the least,” he said.
“IPM is proud to have no affiliation with them and proud that it imparts a quality of education that is at par with the best globally, which is, might I say, thanks to our independence of approach and non-caring attitude towards UGC. I suspect that UGC — at the behest of some of our petty competitors with dirty past records of filth and cheating, and public notices against them (some who now even boast of being supposedly ‘top-class’ universities) — had been deliberately spreading misleading information about IIPM to hurt its business interests and had even gone to the extent of falsely calling IIPM a fake university.”
The IIPM controversy comes at a time when the country is already debating over the issue of freedom of expression, especially on the Internet. Last year, a similar controversy erupted when Maharashtra Police arrested two girls for posting anti-Thackery Facebook status.
However, the IIPM controversy has taken the debate over 'Internet freedom' and 'web censorship' to another level as it's perhaps the first time a government page has been blocked. While allegations and blame games are set to make the issue murkier in the near future, the government shouldn’t delay to intervene into the matter and ensure 'freedom of speech' as well as 'freedom of criticism' should be maintained.
What do you think of the ongoing IIPM controversy? Let us know in the comments section below: