After declaring PFI an ‘unlawful association’, Union government orders social media platforms to purge PFI-related content – The Leaflet
The notice from the Union Department of Information Technology ruling social media has undertones of censorship, in addition to provoking derision.
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A aftermath of Union Home Office (“MHA”) notified the declaration of the Muslim political organization, the People’s Front of India (“PFI”) and several of its associated and front organizations as “unlawful associations” under the strict Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act ( “UAPA”), the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, (MeitY) on September 29, led social media platforms “to delete all content” related to PFI “in the interests of state security and to prevent any provocation and disturbance of public order”.
MeitY’s notice, simply addressed to “All Social Media Platforms”, referred to their “duty of care, safety and confidence”, and directed them to “comply immediately” with any orders or notices issued. by law enforcement or the relevant government. or its authorized agency regarding the removal of text, audio, video, photo or any other form of PFI-related content.
MeitY’s review led to consternation and derision with Thread reporting that MeitY ordered the removal of “all content” linked to a certain organization, suggesting that the notice was intended to ban even its own faithful reporting through social media.
The ban and its official justification
On September 28, the MHA, through its power under Subsection 3(1) of UAPA, informed that PFI and its affiliates including Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations, National Women’s Front , Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala have been declared “unlawful associations”. Notably, the political wing of PFI, the Social Democratic Party of India, was not mentioned in the notification.
According to subject to section 3(3)the MHA made the notification effective immediately for a period of five years.
This followed raids by multiple Union and state law enforcement agencies in 15 states on September 22 and 27 against leaders and members of the PFI and its affiliate organization, leading to the arrest of approximately 370 people.
Following notification MHA, PFI announcement later that day that it dissolved. On the other hand, Campus Front of India, the student wing of PFI, appointed the notification “undemocratic and unconstitutional”, and said it would challenge the notification in court.
In accordance with the MHA notification, PFI has “pursued a covert agenda to radicalize a particular section of society working to undermine the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect for the constitutional authority and constitutional organization of the country”and “to engage in illegal activities, which are detrimental to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential to disturb the public peace and communal harmony of the country and to support militancy in the country”.
He also claims that PFI has links with two other organizations – the Islamic Student Movement of India and the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh – which are already banned as “unlawful associations” under the UAPA, as well as with global terrorist groups. It further asserts that PFI has “covertly worked to increase the radicalization of a community by fostering a sense of insecurity in the country, which is supported by the fact that some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organizations”.
The notification lists various instances of PFI’s involvement in criminal and terrorist affairs, as well as the cancellation of the registration granted to him and the Rehab India Foundation under the Income Tax Act. It notes that the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat have recommended banning PFI.
In accordance with the provisions of the UAPA, any entity declared “illegal association” is forbidden to use fundsand can have all his property notified and seized. Membership in such an organization is also penalized.