India’s Supreme Court is becoming a national embarrassment. One of its judges, Justice Dipak Misra, has forced cinemas to play the national anthem at the start of every film, ordered people to stand, and banned dramatisations of the anthem. The judge’s order, which is very poorly written, is bad in law and damages the credibility of the court.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to strike down the anachronistic colonial offence of criminal defamation is wrong. Criminalising defamation serves no legitimate public purpose; the vehicle of criminalisation – sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) – is unconstitutional; and the court’s reasoning is woolly at best.
[Excerpt] Aadhaar’s vast database of biometric information is another pillar of India’s national security state. India is currently engaged in technological projects of astonishing dimensions, a colossally wide array of information collection, communications monitoring, and identity profiling. Biometrics have long been associated with biopower, a Foucauldian concept that is being frequently revisited as the world negotiates pervasive surveillance. The Aadhaar project is a new frontier in biopower: unparalleled in scale and unchecked by law, it is obliterating privacy.
[Excerpt] The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is an attempt to co-opt the interface between government and the purveyors of communications; because if the state cannot control communications, it cannot control society. It represents the natural culmination of the progression of Indian surveillance. However, in its present state, Indian surveillance law is unable to bear the weight of the CMS project, and must be vastly strengthened to protect privacy and accountability before the state is given direct access to communications.
[Abstract] The Supreme Court of India will soon deliver its judgment in the case of Ratan Tata v. Union of India that examines important issues of free speech and privacy. The case deals with the interception of telephone conversations over several years, the ‘leak’ of those confidential telephone conversations to reveal large-scale impropriety and corroboratory evidence of wholesale corruption, and the publishing of such information by the press. In these series of posts, I will examine: (a) the free speech right of the press to publish confidential information in the larger public interest; (b) the right of the public to know of corrupt and illegal activities versus the duty of confidentiality and official secrecy; and, (c) the breach of the statutory or tortious duty of confidentiality in respect of taped conversations. This first post looks at the background, facts of the case, and legal issues.