22 February 2013
IIPM Controvery - Case Study - PR + Cyber Law Issue
Probably members would have by now known from media about the blocking of 78 URLs by DOT, which are critical of Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) and Arindam Chaudhuri, head of IIPM. #IIPMand @IIPMScam have become trending topics in social media in the past two days and continues even today.
For the first time in India, strangely, one of the Government of India Departments (DOT) created a dubious history by issuing orders to block the URL of another Government of India body University Grants Commissions (UGC).
In spite of the fact, IIPM is one largest spenders on Advertisements in the country, all the mainline media have carried this information taking cue from social media.
IIPM controversy in 2005
Way back in Sept 2005, IIPM was in the midst of huge controversy. When one of the bloggers wrote critical of IIPM, they issued an e-legal notice. At that time, all the bloggers joined together bring out lot of articles which brought negative publicity to IIPM. Even the mainline media picked up such stories to increase their ratings.
Even in the past IIPM was not tolerant of criticisms. They never took initiative to redress the grievances. Their attempt to 'shut the mouth' boomeranged then. It took a long time for them to get back to normalcy, that too after spending huge money on PR and Advertisement.
At that time, we even discussed in prpoint and image management groups as a case study. Please click to read our discussions in 2005.
The present controversy
IIPM used to issue lot of advertisements in major mainline media spending huge money. Those advertisements used to give an impression that IIPM is one of the big Universities in India. Many students started writing on the various negative aspects of IIPM and their experience in their blog sites Even mainline media like Rediff, Outlook, Indian Express, WJC, HT and many others have written stories about the woes of the students.
University Grants Commission (UGC), Higher Education Regulator of India through their 'Public Notice' in July 2012 clarified that IIPM was not an University under the UGC Act and they did not have any authority to grant or award degrees. Please see this link.
(This is the link ordered to be blocked by DOT and at the time of my writing this note, it is yet to be blocked. Education Minister has already written to DOT Minister to revoke this order.)
This notification of UGC and corresponding writings in the social media and mainline media seems to have irked Arindam Chaudhury, Head of IIPM. It was giving him negative publicity. He moved a court in Gwalior (details of the court not available) to block the 78 URLs which contained discussions on IIPM and Arindam Chaudhury. This includes the URL of UGC Notification, mentioned above.
Immediately, Gwalior Court without calling for the other parties, issued orders to block these 78 URLs.
DOT's quick response
Cert-In of DOT is supposed to monitor the websites containing anti national sites and issue orders to block them. In the earlier occassions, DOT was in controversy for blocking URLs which were not politically comfortable. There are many anti-national sites which are yet to be blocked by DOT.
When the Gwalior Court order was brought to the knowledge of DOT, immediately they issued notification, blocking 78 URLs, which had contents critical of Arindam Chaudhury and IIPM. It is surprising that DOT did not notice the URL of another Government body UGC, which was listed as first item in the list. Many cyber experts question the motive of DOT in issuing this notification in a careless manner in a hurry, without even verifying the URLs.
The notification was issued by the DOT on 14th Feb 2013. Please see the notification in this link.
(Some of the URLs are yet to be blocked at the time of writing this note. You can quickly go through these links to get the first hand idea of the contents.)
For the past two days, this is the hot topic in social media and mainline media. This incident has two angles (1) PR issue of IIPM and (2) Cyber Law issue. Let us analyse both these issues from the angle of IIPM, Court, DOT, etc.
From the angle of IIPM
IIPM is always known for knee-jerk reactions, as indicated in our first para. They seem to be in-tolerant for the criticisms and reviews. From the various writings in the social media, I feel that they are not transparent while marketing their courses. Their marketing persons create huge expectations in the minds of students, which are not satisfied at the time of delivery. Students write that IIPM is not transparent. Instead of addressing these issues internally, IIPM chose to target the social media writers through notices and legal actions. Even in 2005, it boomeranged and IIPM got a nation-wide negative publicity.
Though IIPM claims to be one of the top Business Schools for Management Education, they have not understand this basic lesson from the past. Even in the current issue, they chose to block a Government notification and media reports. If IIPM is aggrieved with the notification of UGC, they should have challenged the UGC notification in the High Court or Supreme Court with proper documentation. Instead of resorting to this legal route, IIPM chose to block the UGC URL through a court in Gwalior. We are unable to understand why they approached Gwalior Court, when their operations are mostly in major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune.
Now this incident is debated more and more in social media among the youth, who are their prospective students. The knee-jerk reaction and this unprofessional approach has created a 'PR-disaster'. Like 2005, it may take long time for them to get back to normalcy.
IIPM should learn a lesson from this incident. Instead of blaming or threatening the critics, they should understand their genuine grievances and function more transparently.
From the angle of Gwalior Court
We are unable to get more details about the proceedings, excepting that Gwalior Court has issued the order to block 78 URLs. We are not sure whether the Court had enquired with IIPM, as to why they chose Gwalior Court to block the URLs. We are also not sure how this Court had immediately issued orders blocking the URLs, without even taking into consideration that the first in the list was that of University Grants Commission. This clearly indicates that the Court did not verify the contents or URLs before issuing orders. In future, when such cases come up before the Courts, the Hon'ble Judges should take some more efforts before issuing the orders. Presently, an ordinary citizen looks for such courts for his final remedy and solution. Aam aadhmi should not lose confidence on judicial system by such orders, that has blocked the Government URLs.
From the angle of DOT
Cert-In (DOT) has immediately issued the notification blocking the 78 URLs. They can now argue that they acted on the basis of Court orders. Even if there is a mistake in the Court order, it is the duty of the DOT to bring it to the knowledge of the concerned Court and rectify the order. When one Government Department issues order blocking another Government Department, the world will laugh at us and it would make every citizen to hang his head in shame for such casual approach.
Let us imagine a situation. If RBI issues a notification in their site, banning one 'Fake Finance Company', let us assume that the aggrieved finance company goes to a small court in an insignificant and unconnected place and gets a court order to block the URL of Reserve Bank of India. In that case, will DOT issue notification blocking RBI URL? What DOT has done is something ridiculous and puts the nation in shame and laughing stock.
It may be recalled, few years back one person got the arrest warrant against President of India, Chief Justice of India and the Speaker through a court in UP. It was seriously debated at that time in all media, exposing the vulnerability of our system. DOT should exercise more caution, before blocking the URLs. It should not block the freedom of expression assured in our Constitution. At the same time, they cannot close their eyes for any anti national sites.
Freedom of expression is the right of every Indian citizen. The organisations like IIPM shoud introduce more transparency in their system internally to improve the confidence level of students and the public. Instead of resorting to shutting the voice, they should understand the voice and work on that.
I request communication and cyber law experts to share their views.
I am marking copy of this mail to Shri Subhodh Saxena, Director of DOT who has issued the notification blocking the 78 URLs. If we receive any communication from him, we will share with the members. You may also endorse your views to him, so that the Government gets the views of the aam adhmi like us.
Editor in Chief