Delhi Police on Thursday said it had withdrawn a notice sent to an Internet service provider (ISP) earlier this month, in which it had cited the stringent anti-terrorism law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), to ask the company to block a website critical of a draft notification issued by the Union Environment Ministry.
The notice to Endurance Domains Technology LLP had been sent “inadvertently” and “by mistake”, the police said on Thursday.
The website that the police had asked the ISP to “block immediately” is FridaysForFuture (FFF) India, the Indian arm of the international movement led by the teenage Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg.
FFF India had been campaigning against the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020. On Thursday, Thunberg retweeted a thread by FFF India on the police notice, saying, “Please read, share and support Fridays for Future India!”
In its notice issued on July 8 “under section 79(3)(B) of IT Act in complaint of Hon’ble Cabinet Minister Shri Prakash Javadekar regarding getting multiple emails on his email ID with the subject name similar to ‘EIA 2020’”, the Cyber Crime unit of Delhi Police said the site http://www.fridaysforfuture.in “depicts objectionable contents and unlawful activities or terrorist act, which are dangerous for the peace, tranquillity and sovereignty of India”.
The site was “being accessed through your services and contain religious hatred content/material, which is punishable u/s 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Information Technology Act, 2000…”, the police said in the notice to the ISP.
On Thursday, however, DCP (Cyber Crime) Anyesh Roy – the senior officer who had signed the July 8 notice – told The Indian Express that the notice “was sent inadvertently, by mistake, and it was brought to our notice and withdrawn on July 12”.
Roy said: “The UAPA cannot and has not been invoked in the case. On July 12, we modified the notice sent to the ISP, which does not mention UAPA. It mentions only sections of the IT Act. This too was withdrawn on July 16 as the issue had been resolved.”
On July 16, the police sent a letter to the nodal officer of the ISP which said: “…The said website had engaged in unlawful activities covered under section 66 of the Information Technology Act… The matter has been reviewed and it has been found that the unlawful activity has now ceased. Therefore, the note dated 08/07/2020 and 12/07/2020… is hereby withdrawn with immediate effect.”
On July 20, the Cyber Crime unit received an email from the “response team of the ISP”, Roy said. It said: “We acknowledge the receipt of the withdrawal request for domain name FridaysForFuture.in and are currently closing the issue.”
The officer also said Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had not complained to the police, as mentioned in the notice. But officials of his Ministry had been spammed by “lakhs of emails” in the manner resembling a “denial of service attack”, DCP Roy said.
“The Minister has not filed any complaint, it was written mistakenly in the notice dated July 8. There were 7-8 email IDs of officials of the Ministry of Environment who got lakhs and lakhs of mails that were being sent in an automated fashion regarding the Environment Impact Assessment,” Roy said.
The official spokesperson of the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Gaurav Khare, said Javadekar’s personal email had been targeted. “The Draft EIA Notification, 2020 is in the public domain. Any suggestions and public comments can be sent at the official mail provided for the purpose, that is, firstname.lastname@example.org till August 10, 2020 as mentioned in the notification. How is spamming the Hon’ble Minister’s personal mail with lakhs of mails justified?” the spokesperson said.
Ministry officials said the email ID in question was the main email that Javadekar uses for official business. “The Minister had received anywhere between 80,000 to 1 lakh mails, all with the heading ‘EIA 2020’. He couldn’t even work. The complaint that had gone from the Ministry was a non-specific complaint raising this issue, that’s all,’’ an official said.
Kruba Hebbar of FFF India said they were a movement of the youth, and not a formal organisation. “We had put up the official email for the objections as well as the Minister’s email on our page. Many have written in an individual capacity, since we are young and don’t have the skills to make a case of the objections… We don’t know how many mails the Minister received, but our page received 80,000 views,’’ she said.
While DCP Roy said the website had been unblocked, M Yuvan, an activist who is involved in the running of the FFF India website, said it was still blocked. The website could not be reached on Thursday evening. —(Inputs by Shivam Patel)