I would like to know whether online petitions and sms-driven petitions have a legal standing. [This refers to my earlier post, and small discussion with hapuchu]

To explain: NDTV stated that they handed over the petition to the President. *That* is what I would be interested in. Does that petition have a legal standing?

In addition, I wonder about the legalities involved with the privacy and ownership of these numbers. (I am not sure what to call this; Let me try the verbose way) I send an SMS says yes (or whatever). My cell number is recorded, and provided as a signatory to a petition.

How is the accuracy of this defined? How does one prove he did actually receive my SMS, and that he did not fabricate my number? Or does the onus lie with me, the alleged signatory?

Also, is my name and address automatically added to identify me as the signatory, or is it just a specific *number* of signatories to the petition that is presented?

Like I said, I am only wondering aloud… but I would love some answers.

Any takers?

Nakul

10 Comments

  1. When there is a mob baying for justice, one does not ask them for their ID cards. I am sure that half the mob are just curious onlookers who like a good lynching.

    1. Very interesting that! 🙂

      And therein lies the problem too. This is a virtual mob… not *real* in that sense. And no real worry of the mob doing any lynching… only mob-blogging!

      And that may indeed be the reason why online petitions have never really worked… other than instances where they were used as a tool to amass the mobs (physically).

      But then, we saw what happened to the student doctors who came out in the streets of Delhi & Mumbai… That may encourage some to blog, not that it is that safe anymore!

      Nakul

  2. Nakul,

    I would like to add one more thing specifically on this SMS business. Cell phones companies charge users between 3 to 6 Rs for this special SMSs send to the special 4 digit numbers.

    The revenue is divided equally between the telecom company and the content provider (TV channel).

    Let us do some simple math:
    I think NDTV received around 2 Lakh SMSs on the Jessica issue.
    Considering 3 Rs per SMS, 6 Lakh Rs was split between telecom providers and NDTV. NDTV getting 50% of it i.e. 3 Lakh.

    Jessica may or maynot get justice because of the SMS compaign but Pranav Roy did make a quick buck.

    Chirag

    1. Chirag,

      Thats interesting. Very. Coz if the sms-driven petition/poll has NO legal standing, then it is just a quick money-making ploy for the channel and service provider, plus a major puclicity gimmick.

      For if the 2 lakh support SMSes sent in by the people were not (or were unable to be) used to submit a petition, then the people who voted were misguided.

      I smell a public interest litigation in this…

      Nakul

      1. Yes!

        Actually this SMS rot goes very deep, specially if you consider the millions of SMSes sent by viewers to the talent hunt shows. Mind you, the talent hunt SMSes cost 6 Rs per SMS!

        Indian Idol claimed that it received around 5 million SMSes. Producers will get Rs. 3 per SMS which makes it 15 million Rs. Compare that figure to the 1 Crore that the Indian Idol will get as prize money in lieu of his singing and music sales.

        Way talent show polls work in India are very different from that in the USA. In the US the voting numbers are toll-free while here in India viewers actually pay to make their favorite person an Indian Idol.

        Wonder why no one has noticed this untill now!

        1. Exactly. You are the man! 🙂

          So all this will be easier to highlight, if the sms-driven petitions have NO legal standing… Sorry to keep returning to the first square, but to me *this* is the one tool (Brahmaastra, if you please) to begin this fight… if there’s one to be fought at all.

          Thus my repeated call to the “legal pundits” here… 🙂

          Nakul

  3. Good point. 38,000 votes means something. Democrazy and all that jazz, it is something that should be looked into. Chirag made a good point with the sms issue, I had no idea!

    1. Thanks Rashmi. As you said, we all have voted in umpteen online petition projects in the past, and also can remember some *very* famous ones, like the one carried out by Michael Moore himself. But nothing actually came out of it, or the many others.

      I too wonder what kind of democracy we live, when people are not allowed to come out in the streets, nor do we know the validity (and thus the impact) of online and other forms of petitions.

      I know a physical petition signed by individuals (citing identity and proof thereto) is permissible in the court of law, and to the legislators. Do the online (and other techmological) petitions enjoy this status? On a related note, if yes/no, should they??

      Nakul

      1. Online petitions would be dicey to accept, I think. One person can fake so many signatures and it doesnt really make sense. A physical petition with different handwriting and identity has a higher standing. If something verifiable and similar could be done, may be it would be acceptable. I don’t know if it is permissible in a court of law. But if there are 38 thousand responses, it is atleast worth raising the issue and taking it to a higher level. Smses may not make sense due to other agendas and motives, but a voting on an issue like that makes complete sense. I don’t quite know how this can be achieved but it is definitely worth something. Can you think of any other way? Maybe a debate, or a public consensus of sorts, where they could ask College students and an enquiry in offices, in the streets etc… I am still hazy on this. Do you have any other ideas?

        1. Agreed, again. Makes perfect sense… Thus would be interesting to know if Law has any clear stand on this, yet. And I don’t just mean Law in India…

          Like you said Rashmi, voting like this (online, sms, et al) makes perfect sense. What I am getting at is that if all this is not legal, then you might as well save time and money (as Chirag said some time back), and perhaps engage more in the (arguably more fruitful modes):

          debate, or a public consensus of sorts, where they could ask College students and an enquiry in offices, in the streets etc…

          Just thinking aloud.

          Nakul

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