Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism on Tuesday, following a tweet after the Central government put a ban on TikTok and 58 other apps that have been made in China.
“Modi to address us today. As we wait with bated breath,what to expect? Gloating about his 'surgical strike' on Chinese Apps? Banning Chinese Cos like Paytm? Banning Chinese food? Balcony se China ko gali do? Hamne Covid ko hara diya! Petrol sasta go gaya!or Sab Nehru ki den hai (sic),” Bhushan tweeted.
In an earlier tweet, Bhushan also made a jibe at the government for being ungrateful over TikTok's contribution of Rs 30 crore to the PM-CARES fund.
As per a press note published by the government, there apps were "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order". The notice adds that these apps had prosed many concerns including those regarding security and the safety of user data.
"There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India's sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens. On the basis of these and upon receiving of recent credible inputs that such Apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices," the notice explained.
Notably, Bhushan was one of of the first people to questioned how UIDAI was ‘breaching the right to privacy’ while putting out its rules about the Aadhaar card. He also questioned the Aarogya Setu app when it was introduced by the Central government to monitor the number of COVID-19 patients in the country. In a Facebook post, Bhushan wrote, “The compulsory use of Arogya Setu app for traveling by flights is illegal & a violation of the right to privacy.”
Bhushan’s criticism of the prime minister and the central government over the banning of Chinese apps versus his tirade against the UIDAI and the Aarogya Setu over right of privacy has drawn a lot of criticism.
Like Bhushan, there were a number of individuals on Twitter critical of the government. Given TikTok and other Chinese companies had donated to the Centre before they were banned, these critics demanded that the Centre return the money to China as well.
Notably, like TikTok, neither having an Aadhaar Card nor having the Aarogya Setu app is compulsory. However, unlike TikTok, not having the other two can be problematic, as this Quartz article explained. When the Supreme Court struck down that linking Aadhaar with everything was compulsory, there was a sigh of relief. However, you still need the Aadhaar card to link to your PAN number in order to file your income tax.
Similarly, if you aren’t travelling anywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need not have the Aarogya Setu app. This, however, changes if you’re returning from abroad or travelling from one part of India to another.
In comparison, TikTok was voluntarily downloaded by millions of Indians, aspiring to be content creators. This lack of a platform – despite its security flaws and the horribly cringeworthy content – is most likely to hit these individuals badly, given that they have gained national celebrity status because of the videos they have created.
While Bytedance – TikTok’s parent company is reportedly in talks with the Centre, it will only be a matter of time to see what holds for several Chinese apps that have taken over the Indian internet ecosystem.