Legal Reason behind Ban of Chinese Apps

India is one of the most fast-developing nations in the world it has twenty-nine states and eight Union Territories. Based on geographical location it is the 7th largest country in the world with a total area of 3,287,263 square km. There are some neighbouring countries with India which are Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and many more. Some border disputes take place between our country and neighbouring countries. Although, there is LOC which is “Line of Control” it is a military control line between our nation and Pakistan controlled at the north side of our country Jammu & Kashmir is not legally recognized as an International boundary commonly known as Ceasefire Line. Even the same is with LAC which is “Line of Actual Control” it is a demarcation line that separates the Indian area from that of a Chinese controlled area.

This area was not having any proper boundaries, it’s like both nation’s military are there as per the agreement which was between both the nation’s and they cannot use any ammunition there as per the rules which have been prescribed under that agreement. But on May 5, 2020, the Chinese army again tries to enter the area of our nation but they were pulled back. On 15th June 2020 Indian and China had a face-off again at the Galway Valley area which comes under the Line of Actual Control and this is the most deadly crash which happened between both the nations. In this clash, our nation’s superhero’s members of our Indian Army lost their lives 20 Indian soldiers have died in this incident. Even the agreement which was between both the nation also got over as it was violated by China.

With this clash between both the nations, our country started with boycotting the Chinese products. Even the center after this clash between both the army blocked many of the Chinese products even through interim order the access of 59 Chinese phone applications was also blocked. These restrictions on blocking of these application introduced through ‘geo-block’ that is a new technological measure which restricts the access of these applications. At present these 59 applications cannot be accessed in India even with the help of a VPN which is an advanced firewall.

This order was enforced under section 69A of the IT Act [1]which is to be read with the Blocking Chain Rules, 2009. This order was released and communicated through the Press Information Bureau and this order was taken under the emergency powers of the Blocking Rules which allows the government to take actions with any notice hearing requirements for 48 hours. During this period government discusses and takes actions and on that, the IT secretary took actions and passed the final order revoking the interim measures and block those 52 applications. These applications were characterized as ‘malicious’ by the PIB and these applications enabling unauthorized transmission of user data to servers situated outside our country. The reason which was stated in the notification is that these applications are engaged in activities that are against user privacy. Even if these applications are available on the phones of existing users they are not able to exceed it.

Digital Ban Impact on the Trade Relations

The decision of blocking access to China applications has significant consequences because a large part of the Indian population has access to those services regularly. The ban makes it prudent to analyze in a geopolitical context which is in trade context because it was an immediate action taken by the government after that Galway Valley incident. India has a huge trade deficit which is about 50 billion dollars with China. Our country is dependent on Chinese goods in various sectors, this limits the economic growth of our country. As per the report which was published by Brookings India, there has been a huge inflow of Chinese capital, particularly in the technological sector. This report also states how several Chinese technology firms have acquired small stakes in companies in India.

It is also stated in The Hindu newspaper that there is no such big problem faced by China with the ban of these applications and it is claimed that it merely a tool of political showmanship. Many of the countries are against China completely this ban has provided a model for those countries. China has given many threats to challenging this matter of ban on applications in WTO. Tim Wu who is a professor of Columbia he stated that this ban by the Indian government doesn’t consider a trade barrier because many countries routinely censor or ban products at their borders. But this doesn’t mean that the agreed terms of WTO must not be regulated or they are breached by both the countries.

Even the applicable regulatory framework is not in the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The ban which is made on the application is completely beyond the jurisdiction of WTO and there are many other countries which have banned many of the Chinese application like Australia has banned the use of WeChat for the armed forces. Similarly, the US fitness tracker has been banned from the military. Even if this ban is wrong then also no objection taken by the members of WTO against India. So, this ban doesn’t violate any terms and conditions and it doesn’t mean that there must be any trade barrier among the countries.

Constitutional Repercussions after the Ban

A large number of our Indian population is using these Chinese applications one of them is Tik Tok which has around 100 million active users in India only. This application has brought marginalized people online in a way no other application has been able to. It is a short film making an application where the people used to showcase their talent on it. The ban on this application showed that a voice to small businesses in rural areas is impacted a lot due to it. The other group affected by this ban are the Tibetan refugees in Delhi who use WeChat to connect with their families there in Tibet. Similarly, there are several Indian students in China, They were also dependent on the applications like WeChat to communicate with their families.

Now, if see many of these applications provide a platform for the expression and allow to disseminate the information which is protected under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution[2], a constitutional challenge to the ban is likely there. Any account of freedom of expression that doesn’t consider how this ban will affect already marginalized communities at best. The Kerala High Court in Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala [3]stated that “interfering with someone’s access to the internet violates inter alia their fundamental right to privacy”. Although the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India observed that “an indefinite suspension of the internet could amount to an abuse of power”. But the decision which was held in the “Faheema case” has not been overruled. Assuming that there exists freedom of the internet as per article 19, it becomes important to evaluate the effect of geoblock.

In the case of Justice Puttaswamy v. UOI [4]the Supreme Court has stated that rights cannot be viewed as different compartments. All the rights are interconnected and they must be viewed as a network of interconnected freedoms. The most obvious right to get inculpate by geoblock is the fundamental right to access the internet. Although to impose such restriction has been mentioned under article 19(2). At the same time the interconnected nature of constitutional freedoms, it would also have to fair with Article 14[5]. From this, it can be stated that the geoblock which was imposed is not an arbitrary action of the government. The user of these Chinese applications in India if they feel that their access to the internet is restricted and volition of Fundamental rights took place so this is completely unreasonable.

These Chinese applications which were banned such as Tik Tok were already the subject of litigation in India, even the Supreme Court is also refusing to hear a plea for the transfer of cases concerning banning imposed by the Madras High Court. The Madras High Court on Aril 24 lifted its ban on the social media application with the condition that such platforms shall not be used for obscene videos. But on April 3 high court directed the center to ban mobile these Chinese mobile applications and asked for the statute specifically protecting the privacy of children online. After that China Company Byte Dance which owns the Tik Tok has challenged this ban on the Supreme Court, the court refused to stay on the High Court order.

The two main provisions of IT Act 2000 which were taken into account during the impose of this ban by the Supreme Court are: Section 69 of IT Act, 2000 [6]which was introduced by an amendment in 2008. This section gives power to the Central Government to block public access to any information online whether on websites or mobile apps. Under this section, if a website threatens India’s defense, its sovereignty and integrity, relations with foreign countries, and public order, the government has the power to ban such applications.

The second provision is Section 79 of IT Act, 2000 which states that an intermediary would not be held liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made by him available or hosted by him provided that the intermediary’s functionality is limited to providing access to a communication system over which information made available by third parties is transmitted, temporarily stored or hosted or if the intermediary does not– (i) initiate the transmission, (ii) select the receiver of the transmission, and (iii) select or modify the information contained in the transmission. The exemption would not be applicable if the intermediary is involved in the unlawful act or if the intermediary fails to take down any unlawful content upon receiving actual knowledge of such content. Many of these applications are deemed to be an “intermediary” under the IT Act, 2000. [7]


The ban imposed by the government on these 59 applications is not a trade barrier and they were against the provisions of IT Act 200 discussed above. The government is also planning for the ban of 47 more applications which are similar to these applications, clone versions of these applications. These bans safeguard the Indian user data, privacy and also protect the country from the digital threats which are there from these application poses to our national security. Even with the ban more opportunities for Indian applications were given such as Chingari, Mitron, Roposo, and ShareChat. This geoblock imposed by the government is the perfect step to safeguard the privacy of the nation and the population is also supporting this step of our Central Government



[1] The Information Technology Act, 2000

[2] The Constitution of India, 1950

[3] 2019(2) KHC 220

[4] WRIT PETITION (CIVIL)  NO 494 of 2012

[5] of The Constitution of India, 1950

[6] Section 69 of The Information Technology Act, 2000

[7] Section 79 of The Information Technology Act, 2000

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