FROM YES BAN TO NO BAN
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on 24th April, 2019, lifted its earlier ban on the download and use of the popular video-sharing app, TIK-TOK. The matter was taken on the hearing day following, the Supreme Court order on 23rd April, to decide on the question of interim relief for Tik-Tok. The Apex court had stated that if the Madras High Court fails to decide on the interim relief on the 24th April, the interim order would stand vacated.
The Bench of justices’ Sri. N, Kirubakaran and S S Sundar lifted the ban on 24th April, after hearing submissions made by Tik-Tok and Amicus Curiae:one (such as a professional person or organization) that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question, Senior Advocate Sri. Arvind Datar.
Appearing for the Tik-Tok, Senior Advocate Issac Mohanlal, informed the Court that there is technology in place to ensure that nude/obscene content is not uploaded through the app. A counter affidavit to this effect had also been filed by Tik-Tok. Further, Tik-Tok also made submissions on the steps taken to counter the apprehensions raised by the Court following its April 3rd ban.
Amicus Curiae, Datar’s submissions primarily focused on the Intermediary Guidelines Information Technology Act. He also submitted that online speech is protected under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution,
Article 19(1) in The Constitution of India 1949
(1) All citizens shall have the right
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
In this backdrop, he submitted that there cannot be a system where something which is statutorily permissible becomes judicially impermissible. He told the Court that banning the app is not the solution and that the rights of legitimate users must be protected.
A petitioner in the case submitted that the Court ban ought to continue since it was Chinese app, owing to the threats posed by China to India. The Court, however, made it clear that it is only concerned about the protection of online users, particularly children, against cybercrime.
Following the submissions made, the Court has now decided to vacate its interim order banning the app. The High Court had passed the interim order earlier this month while issuing the following directions:
· The Government is directed to prohibit downloading of Tik-Tok Mobile App.
· The Media is prohibited from telecasting the videos made using Tik-Tok Mobile App.
· The Government has to answer whether the Union of India will enact a Statute, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted by the United States, to prevent children becoming cyber/online victims.
The High Court passed the order after expressing concern that the app hosts inappropriate content, including pornography, which is available for access to children. The Bench has also expressed its consternation that minors are also exposed to strangers online through Tik-Tok.
Tik-Tok had subsequently challenged the order in the Supreme Court. The company had claimed that the Madras High Court’s interim order was based on exaggerations made by the petitioner in the case. The Supreme Court however, decided to defer consideration of the matter and directed the Madras High Court to take a call.
But what should be seen here is, that app should by itself have all the precautionary privacy settings as in WhatsApp and other social media platform, to protect the users from being taken, undue advantage by all those sexual predators, prowlers who tend to target the innocent, gullible minors, teenagers and young men and women. Let it operate like any other social media video, like you tube, where if there are many dislikes to likes, the video is immediately taken off from the seers’ view. Let there be a control over which, these users are safeguarded, protected, of their privacy, without being exploited, misused, blackmailed.
LET THE USERS AND SEERS KNOW AND STAY WITHIN THE LIMITS, NOW THAT, YES TO THE BAN HAS BEEN VACATED……...
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, ADVOCATE & SOCIAL ACTIVIST.