People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 09

March 03, 2013


Arindam Chaudhury & Thinking beyond

Blocking the Internet


Prabir Purkayastha


THE blocking instructions issued by the Department of Telecom (DoT) of 78 url's have created a storm of protests. Five of the 78 url's blocked refer to misleading web sites, the rest 73 are the result of a Gwalior Court order. All these pages are either critical of IIPM and Arindam Chaudhuri, the self-styled management guru and the head of the IIPM and its associated business or reporting of court cases pertaining to IIPM.


While DoT has been blamed for the ham-handed way in which it initiated the blocking, this time the major responsibility lies with the Gwalior judge who issued a sweeping ex parte order without either examining the merits of such a ban or the need for this tearing hurry in issuing an interim injunction.


Surprisingly, one of the url's blocked is a notification of the University Grants Commission (UGC) stating that IIPM is not recognised by the UGC. This UGC notification itself was in response to a court direction. The Delhi High Court had asked UGC and All India Council for Technical Institution (AICTE) to clarify the status of IIPM as it held, “No educational institution has the right to put students under any illusion or confusion in a country ruled by the law.”


IIPM has been carrying out a high-voltage ad campaign claiming to be superior to IIM's – “dare to think beyond the IIMs”. It also publishes various reports from dubious ranking agencies showing that it ranks in the top management schools in the country, has world class faculty and infrastructure and is affiliated to well-known foreign institutions. The reality is that it provides certificates that are worth very little. Initially, its advertisements claimed that IIPM provided MBA/BBA's from institutions such as Buckingham Business School, the University of Buckingham, UK, etc. After various exposes carried out by different media publications, IIPM now carries only ambiguous claims of degrees from IMI, Belgium. Incidentally, IMI itself is not recognised as an educational institution in Belgium and any person claiming in Belgium to be holding a Graduate or Master's degree from IMI is liable to criminal prosecution.


After the furore in the media and the blogosphere subsequent to the blocking, Arindam Chaudhuri came out with an attack on UGC, claiming that it was corrupt and hand in gloves with its competitors to malign IIPM. He also said that he does not want to be associated in any way with such a body that is why IIPM does not seek recognition from UGC. Ironically, this does not stop IIPM from declaring on its website that it has partnership with three universities recognised by UGC. For example, it says that Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU), Meghalaya recognised by UGC, allows IIPM to award BBA/MBA degrees in all 18 of its campuses and even displays a specimen of a degree from MGU on its site! So much for not caring for UGC.


Incidentally, UGC has clear rules that a university has a geographical location and cannot run courses outside its geographical area for which it has been recognised. Therefore, it cannot award degrees for IIPM campuses outside Meghalaya. This is the pattern of IIPM practice, make claims, get students and then once it is exposed, come up with new claims.


The problem with courts, particularly with IIPM is that distant courts in Silchar, Guwahati and now Gwalior have been used by IIPM to harass adverse publications and blogs. The courts have been used for legal venue shopping and have given ex parte orders without any application of mind. As in the current case, it is impossible to understand why a Gwalior court would have entertained the petition at all –supposedly of a channel partner of IIPM's – and then issue such a sweeping interim injunction. There are legal judgements that have held that the standards for any media is same and unless there is overwhelming evidence to indicate defamation, such injunctions should not be issued. An Uttarakhand court in 2010 has also given a clear judgement that IIPM has not been able to show that the statements made about it is untrue and therefore no case of libel can stand up in court.


IIPM is using its money power, garnered through misleading a large number of students and charging them fancy fees, in harassing all and sundry who dare to speak the truth about them. Whether it is Caravan, a blogging site, Just Another Magazine, Career 360, all of them have fallen victim to such tactics. This time, he has overstretched himself by trying to ban all those who have reported on these cases or even UGC who has made a factual statement that IIPM is not recognised by it. The only reason he can continue to do so is the unfortunate propensity of some of our judges to pass orders which cannot stand up to any serious legal scrutiny.


The DoT seems to have worked out as standard the same procedures that drew sharp criticism during the Assam violence and Bangalore exodus of North-East people. The blocking again was without any attempt to inform the organisations and the owners of the sites that some of their material was being blocked. This includes well-known media organisations such as Outlook, Indian Express, Times of India, etc. Not even an email informing them of the action – these media organisations coming to know of the ban only from the blogosphere. Worse, the blocking notice issued to ISP's carried the same line as it did last time – that the compliance response of the ISP's should not carry the url's of the pages blocked. Why should the ISP's not give the url's they have blocked in their compliance report makes very little sense.


Kapil Sibal's assurances after the earlier controversy of looking into these procedures over blocking have yielded no visible result; or at least any result that we can see. Neither have the ISP's put up any notice when we type in the url's to tell us that it has been blocked under DoT's instructions. The entire procedure continues to be wrapped in secrecy, a secrecy which in any case lasts for only a day or two. The government, especially the ministry of communications and information technology have to understand that in this day and age, communications to the people have to be much better and information cannot be kept secret. Something the antediluvian bureaucratic order seems unable to grasp. Using 19th century methods of the British Raj in the 21st century will not work.