Updated: Jul 9, 2020
The Ministry of Information Technology, invoking it’s power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 59 apps including top social media applications such as Tik Tok, Helo, We Chat, UC browser since in view of information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
The government stated that such application concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country. The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and IOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures.
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps. This Ministry has also received many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to operation of certain apps. The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues. Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India. There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.
The move could come as a blow to China’s expansion’s policy to some extent and also will be a huge loss to these companies as these applications are very much popular in Indian Market. This could also lead to more countries following India’s suit in banning Chinese applications/ products and in Countries like Canada and Australia the same demand is growing day by day.
Legality of Ban
While the IT Act provides the power to impose a ban like this, the procedure for doing so is provided by the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.
Under rules 7 & 9, public access to websites, apps, etc can be blocked at the request of persons who believe the conditions under the IT Act are fulfilled, after evaluation by a designated officer of the government, and after giving relevant stakeholders a chance to respond. Since most of the Companies have submitted their response to the Government the ball in the government turf now and if Government refuse to give any relief to these Companies the only options will remain to them is to challenge Government’s order before Court. In fact two leading lawyer have already made a statement that they will not appear for Chinese video app Tik-Tok in the Court against the Government of India. From a legal perspective, it is sound because grounds like national security are difficult to challenge in a Court of law and mostly Courts refrain themselves in a matter concerning national security.