The Consultation process must continue: too early for litigation
Last week through press reports we have come to know about a group called the INIEWA which is run by Mr. Varun Bajaj sent a legal notice to the Department of Telecom. These press reports state that INIEWA shares the goal of various internet users in India to safeguard net neutrality. The notice mentions that failing action, INIEWA will approach court.
While we, at Savetheinternet.in, believe that there shouldn’t be licensing of internet platforms and that we need legal regulations to ensure Net Neutrality, we also believe that this isn’t the right time to approach court for protecting Net Neutrality, for the following reasons:
We believe that the processes currently underway - TRAI and DoT consultation process and the consultation with the Standing Committee on Information Technology (2014-15) - must be respected, and should be allowed to proceed. We believe that these processes will lead to the passage of clear legislation in Parliament, and are the appropriate means for upholding net neutrality.
There are high chances that approaching court will not provide the right results given the absence of a clear legal regulation in favour of net neutrality. There is a need for speedy introduction of net neutrality regulation/legislation, and in the meantime a moratorium on violations.
There is every chance that filing a petition at this point and engaging the judicial process is likely to delay, rather than speed up, this process. There is a significant danger that it will cause the regulators to adopt a wait-and-watch approach. The need of the hour is to have a policy clearly defining the do’s and dont’s with respect to net neutrality. Again, this can only happen through a clearly defined law rather than risking the entire net neutrality campaign through litigation.
The adversarial process also pits DoT and TRAI against those working for net neutrality, including us. This is highly counterproductive. We do not see the government and regulatory bodies as our adversaries — on the contrary, we see them as partners in the fight to preserve consumer interest.
A dismissal may at this point may be cited by Telecom Operators and ISP’s in the ongoing consultations as support for their propositions.
We hope the reasons stated above are considered by INIEWA and Mr. Bajaj. Approaching court may be premature and will likely harm the cause of Net Neutrality in India.
Some members of SavetheInternet.in have dealt with similar situations in the past and when all else fails, have as lawyers assisted parties to approach court. It is on the basis of experience and a hope for a clear network neutrality law we appeal to Mr. Bajaj to reconsider filing a case against the DoT. We welcome INIEWA and Mr. Bajaj to the struggle to protect the open character of the internet in India, and we hope to work with them to further the cause.
P.S: We are posting this publicly since our attempts to contact INIEWA are yet to receive any response.