Jaitley said Indira Gandhi could not have declared a state of emergency in the country in 1975 had the internet been around. He complained that we had lost our sense of humour, that we did not understand new technology and that we failed to trust the internal mechanisms of internet platforms to curb harmful speech.
Here's his speech:
The Bharatiya Janata Party's online supporters equated the Congress-led regime's cases of online censorship under the IT Act with the Emergency, and #Emergency2012 trended on Twitter.
Amongst those who spent a night or two in jail under the draconian Section 66A of the IT Act were a businessman who criticised Congress leader P Chidambaram's son, a cartoonist who made cartoons accusing the Congress party of corruption, Air India employees involved in a trade union dispute, students who commented on the death of Bal Thackeray, and a Dalit writer who put up a Facebook post criticising Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.
The BJP had condemned such actions. Does it still condemn them now that it is in power? On the contrary, given its continued use of the draconian IT Act, it seems there's an #Emergency2014.
Five young men in Bangalore ought not have been arrested on May 24 for sending out mobile phone messages ridiculing Narendra Modi's campaign. The arrests followed a complaint by a BJP member who perhaps didn't recall that it was during the Emergency that the government put people in jail for criticising the prime minister.
A 75-year-old man ought not to have been arrested on June 12 under Section 66A for sending allegedly defamatory emails when he hasn't yet been convicted of defamation. India has defamation laws, but it is illogical that while an allegation of defamation in print or on TV is a non-cognisable offence (one in which the police needs a court order to investigate a case or arrest an accused) whereas alleged defamation online can lead to someone ending up in jail.
Such censorship is not limited to the internet. On the complaint of the BJP's youth wing, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the police in Kerala arrested nine students who used invective to describe leading politicians, including prime minister Narendra Modi, in a crossword puzzle.
Will this emergency against free speech, very much in force during the UPA's rule, continue in the promised good days? That is a question the Modi government must answer.