A Victory, and Moving Forward – TRAI Consultations on OTTs

Last week, the Supreme Court of India in its judgment in the case of Shreya Singhal and Ors. v Union of India has decreed S. 66A of the Information Technology Act unconstitutional in its entirety, and at the same drastically restricted the ambit of Ss. 69A and 79 by reading into them the jurisprudence of Art. 19(1) (a) and 19(2). It has at the same time struck down the notice-and-takedown regime, replacing it with a system with more oversight, as we will see in following posts.

We will shortly be coming out with separate, detailed posts on each of the separate dimensions of the judgement, including but not restricted to the Free Speech issues, the Intermediary Liability issues, and the Website blocking concerns. But before we start on to that, a short word of caution.

The victory of 66A is an absolutely immense victory for freedom of speech in India, and not just in the case of the internet – the judgement is a well-written, multifaceted one, which will in all probability have an impact on free speech jurisprudence for years to come. But freedom of speech on the cyberspace is not a victory that is final yet. As of right now, the most crucial debate in the domain of the Indian cyberspace, which holds its future in its hands, is that of Network Neutrality.

And right now, the TRAI has just this week itself released its Consultation Paper on Over-The-Top (OTT) services. While we will be releasing our posts on this issue soon as well, you can read the paper for yourself here, and read Medianama’s post on the issue here.

The crucial part here is that this paper is open for consultation at the moment. We do not have, in India, a John Oliver who can appeal to the masses and flood the TRAI with comments. But that in no way means that the work that is done here is any less important, or that these issues deserve any less concern. Please read, and please comment. These are the issues that decide the future of the internet in India, as much as S. 66A did, if not more.

Comments should be sent to: advqos@trai.gov.in

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