Police Drops UAPA Notice To FFF Website: ‘Clerical Error’, Really?

Delhi Police clarifies no UAPA or IT Act notices against FridaysforFuture.in or FFF India. 

Updated24 Jul 2020, 04:43 PM IST
India
3 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Mohd. Ibrahim

Delhi Police spokesperson MS Randhawa has told The Quint that the UAPA notice (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act), against FridaysforFuture.in or FFF India was a ‘clerical’ mistake and has been withdrawn. He also said that an internal inquiry on what led to this error is going on.

The FFF India website was blocked on 10 July after Delhi Police’s cyber crime unit issued a notice to Big Rock, the website’s domain name registrar, under Section 18 of the UAPA Act.

Mr Randhawa did not clarify to The Quint why it took Delhi Police 16 days to realise their 'clerical' mistake. While he insists that the notice was withdrawn 'earlier', without specifying when, the fact is that the FFF India website was re-instated only at 11.30am on 24 July.

But lets rewind a bit.

FFF India started an online campaign in June 2020 to protest against the Ministry of Environment’s Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 issued on 23 March. The environmental activists have argued that the Draft EIA Notification favours the 'builder lobby' by diluting environmental compliance norms.

As a part of the protest, FFF India uploaded a draft 'protest' email along with the email address for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change which was already in public domain, asking supporters to send their protest emails directly to the Ministry. As a result, the Ministry received thousands of emails which prompted Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to file a complaint against FFF India with the Delhi Police’s Cyber Crime Unit.

16 Days To Realise 'Clerical' Error

The IT notice issued on 8 July was sent to Big Rock, the domain name registrar, under Section 79(3) of IT Act to block the FFF India website.

The notice clearly states the reason for blocking the website is that, “the publication and transmission of such objectionable contents is a cognizable and punishable criminal offence under Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.” You can read this notice below.

When asked when exactly this IT notice mentioning the UAPA was formally 'withdrawn', the Delhi Police spokesperson MS Randhawa did not share a specific date, and just said 'earlier'.

The notice issued by the Delhi Police under IT Act which mentions Section 18 of the UAPA Act.
The notice issued by the Delhi Police under IT Act which mentions Section 18 of the UAPA Act.
The notice issued by the Delhi Police under IT Act which mentions Section 18 of the UAPA Act.
The notice issued by the Delhi Police under IT Act which mentions Section 18 of the UAPA Act.

Abhinav Sekhri, who is part of FFF India’s legal team shares a different timeline of events. Sekhri says FFF India got no formal intimation about the 'withdrawal' of this IT notice, at least till 22 July.

He told The Quint that several days after the FFF India website was blocked, on 22 July, FFF was forced to send Delhi Police a 10 page representation questioning the suspension of the website. The next day citizens raised their voices on the imposition of UAPA Act against FFF India by Delhi Police. Only after that, was the site 'unblocked'.

The FFF India website has started working on 24 July at around 11.30 am. We have written to the domain registrar, Big Rock, on the evening of 23 July asking if there has been any update in the matter but did not receive a reply yet. So right now I can’t confirm if there is no notice.
Abhishek Sekhri, legal team member of FFF India

Unanswered Questions

So, the unanswered questions are -

  • Why was the website blocked for 16 days if the imposition of UAPA Act was merely a “clerical mistake”?
  • Did the Delhi Police inform Big Rock that the IT notice mentioning UAPA Act was a “clerical mistake”? If yes, then when?
  • If the IT notice was 'withdrawn' much before then why was the FFF India website 'unblocked' only on 24 July?
  • Was a public hue and cry a key reason for the unblocking of the website?

The Delhi Police in its defence has also said that a second IT Act notice was issued on 12 July and was withdrawn on 16 July after the Environment Ministry stopped receiving protest emails. But police did not share any details of this notice with the media. Nor did Big Rock share any second IT Act notice with FFF India, says Sekhri. And yet again, no clues shared on why it took a further 8 days to unblock the website.

The campaign to protest against Draft EIA Notification 2020 is not visible on FFF India website as of now. FFF India is internally deciding on how to take forward the campaign, said Sekhri.

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Published: 24 Jul 2020, 02:04 PM IST
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