Section 69A of the Information Technology(IT) Act – UPSC Prelims

Section 69A of the Information Technology(IT) Act:
  • When was it introduced? Section 69A of the IT Act was introduced by an amendment to the Act in 2008.
  • Powers: It allows the government to block public access to any intermediary in the interest of
    • Sovereignty and integrity of India
    • Defence of India
    • Security of the state
    • Friendly relations with the foreign States or
    • Public order or
    • Preventing incitement of any cognisable offence relative to the above.
  • Intermediaries: The intermediaries under the Act include; telecommunication companies, internet service providers, network operators, web-hosting services, search engines, payment gateways and other relevant portals and services.
  • Procedure: Section 69A provides the government with the power to block public access. But the procedure to do that is listed in the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
  • Penal Provisions: The Act says prescribes punishment for any intermediary (internet platform) for failure to comply with the government direction. Punishment can be imprisonment for up to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
Why in news?
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY) ordered Twitter to block several Twitter accounts for posing a threat to law and order. The order was issued under Section 69A of the Information Technology(IT) Act.
  • On this, Twitter blocked several accounts. But very soon it reactivated several of them citing free speech and because it found the content newsworthy.
  • Government’s response:
    • The government has said that Twitter was free to formulate its own rules and guidelines. But the Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules.
    • On free speech, the government has said that freedom of speech and expression is provided under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India.
    • However, freedom of expression is not absolute, and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India.
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