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Environment Ministry invokes terrorist act when faced with minister's full mailbox -- then relents

 July 27 2020: Delhi Police recently  invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against Endurance Domains Technology LLP, an internet service provider for the domain of  the environment portal “ Fridays for Future” to block the website. It was based on a complaint filed by Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar “regarding the incident of getting multiple emails with the subject name similar to ‘EIA 2020’.”

Fridays for Future India,  is the country chapter of the  global climate change  movement led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. FFF had launched an online campaign in June  as part of the consultations on  the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020.  FFF  created a template for the public to respond  and when his mail box overflowed with such public responses, the Minister filed a police complaint.

On July 8, the Delhi police sent a notice to that hosts FFF India’s domain, demanding that it block the group’s website because their “unlawful activities may disturb peace, sovereignty of India”.

“The website depicts objectionable contents and unlawful activities or terrorist act, which are dangerous for the peace, tranquility and sovereignty of India,” reads the notice publicised by FFF India on Wednesday. “The publication and transmission of such objectionable contents is a cognizable and punishable criminal offence under Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.”

However, the initial notice  by the Cyber Crime unit of Delhi Police, dated July 8, which was circulated  and widely panned on the social media,  was withdrawn and replaced  on July 12 by  another  under section 66 of the Information Technology Act. This too was withdrawn on July 16  as the issue was resolved.

FFF clarified: "....without financial support,our website only provided content for draft email &publicly available email addresses of MOEF&CC,the minister in charge &the address for EIA consultation process.We provided content for those concerned,to draft& send their own objections."

Admittedly, the email ID provided by the Ministry of Environment (  eia2020-moefcc@gov.in )  was not that of the Environment Minister, but   civil society is today discussing whether the Minister needed to react to a full mailbox with a police  complaint,   that triggered such a draconian response.

Former  Environment Minister  Jairam Ramesh, who has sent his own detailed response to the draft EIA, tweeted: C’mon @PrakashJavdekar I too received multiple emails when I was Minister and took them in my stride. I thought you had a slim streak of liberalism, but quite clearly I was wrong. ..

FFF posted on July 23: The blocking of the website is shocking and appalling. It is upsetting and disappointing that the government is digitally censoring the movement and accusing the youth of India of doing completely absurd things.

The draft EIA notification, is facing opposition from environmental activists since it gives the government vast discretionary powers in deciding the environmental impact of projects while limiting public engagement.

Sources:

NewsLaundryDelhi police invoke anti-terror law against green NGO. Their crime? Helping send emails to Prakash Javadekar

Times of India: Cops use UAPA to block site, call it ‘goof-up’ later

News 18:UAPA Invoked Against Site that Promoted Dialogue on Draft EIA With Javadekar, Later Withdrawn



 





    


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