Tamil Nadu

Court asks Centre to block online sale of crackers

Contempt plea filed against officials

The Madras High Court has directed the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to forthwith block all websites that facilitate online sale of crackers and fireworks. It has also issued a direction to the Centre as well as the State government to publicise widely that such sale was prohibited by law and that punitive action would follow in case of violation.

Justice P.D. Audikesavalu issued the direction on a writ petition filed by a Chennai-based trader M. Shaik Abdullah last year seeking a direction to a host of government officials to consider a representation made by him on September 23, 2018 and consequently issue prohibitory order restraining the retail sale of crackers through online.

When his case was taken up for admission on October 16, 2018, Justice S. Vaidyanathan had ordered notices to the officials returnable by November 15, 2018 and passed an interim order stating that there shall not be any online sale of crackers till then. The petition did not get listed thereafter.

In the meantime, the petitioner issued a lawyer’s notice to the respondents on September 4 this year warning them of contempt of court proceedings on the ground that no action was taken to curb online sale of crackers. Subsequently, he also filed a contempt of court petition and urged the court to punish the officials.

During the course of hearing, Additional Government Pleader E. Manoharan brought it to the notice of the judge that the Superintendent of Police in-charge of Cyber Cell of Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department had written to the Group Coordinator, Cyber Law Division in MEITY, to block a list of websites enclosed with the letter.

However, in reply, the SP was informed that Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) could be blocked only in specific scenarios such as issues concerning the defence of the country, sovereignty or integrity of the country, security of State, relations with foreign countries, maintenance of public order and so on.

“This instant case referred by you does not fall in any category mentioned above for blocking,” the reply sent by the Joint Director, Cyber Law and e-Security Division of MEITY, read. Not in agreement with such a stand taken by the Centre, the judge said, the issue of illegal online sale of crackers would amount to disturbance to public order.

Since the Supreme Court too had frowned upon such sale, the judge passed a judicial order directing MEITY to block the websites forthwith.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 1:54:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/court-asks-centre-to-block-online-sale-of-crackers/article29802439.ece

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