New Delhi: Gwalior may seem likely an unlikely epicenter for an impassioned debate on free speech, but on Thursday, a court here could decide whether to un-block nearly 70 URLs or web-pages, critical of entrepreneur Arindham Chaudhari and his business schools.
At Thursday's hearing, the government will challenge the court's verdict, delivered earlier this month, which booted up online fury about both Mr Chaudhari and the decision in his favour.
Many felt free speech had been compromised, setting a perilous precedent. Especially worrying was that none of the publishers whose pages were blocked were either informed of the ban or given a chance to defend themselves in court.
The government was seen as implementing the ban with such gusto that the University Grants Commission or UGC, the regulator for higher education, was affected. A part of its website was blacked out for warning that Mr Chaudhari's IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning and Management) is not recognized as a university and cannot confer degrees on students.
Mr Chaudhari has said he has no compunction about the lawsuit because it sought to protect his business and him from defamation. But his defense is somewhat strangled by the fact that he appears to have used a proxy server for his case - a businessman named Ruchir Sharma, who runs an IIPM affiliate in Dabra, 40 kms from Gwalior. Mr Sharma has said in his court petition that defamatory online content about IIPM was affecting his business.
The fact that the case was filed in a small-town court, Mr Chaudhari's detractors say, reeks of an attempt to prohibit publishers from offering their side of the story, or challenging the injunction or restraining order.