Savukku

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Savukku
Savukku logo.jpg
The website logo which appears as "a silhouette of a cowboy on horse with the whip".[1]
Screenshot of www.savukku.net.jpg
Screenshot of the homepage of the website.
Type of site
Whistle blowing blog
Available in Tamil, English
Website savukkuonline.com
Alexa rank 70,433 (March 2014)[2]
Commercial No
Launched September 2010; 7 years ago (2010-09)
Current status Inactive within India (blocked on orders of Madras High Court[3])

'Savukku (English: whip) is an anonymous, non-profit, whistle blowing website. The website has been called the Tamil's Wikileaks.[4] The site publishes articles in Tamil and English. It is known for leaking sensational 2G spectrum case taped conversation and publishing articles on corrupt government employees, politicians, judges, journalists and socio-political affairs. It is believed to be run by Savukku' Shankar alias Achimuthu Shankar, a former lower division clerk in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption. On 28 February 2014, the website was blocked on Madras High Court orders after a writ for defamation filed by a SUN TV employee, Mahalakshmi. In a different matter, Shankar was charged under Sections 66, 70 and 72 of the Information Technology Act, alleged to have leaked the conversation between former Chief Secretary to Government and former Director of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption. He was acquitted on 24 February 2017.

Overview[edit]

The website publishes articles anonymously, they say, about corrupt government employees, politicians, judges and journalists. It was started in September 2010. It does not give any information about the owner(s) or the publisher(s) of posts on website, but is said to have run by Achimuthu Shankar, a former lower division clerk in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption.[5] In 2008, Shankar allegedly leaked the transcript of a taped conversation between S. K. Upadhyay, then director of DVAC, and L. K. Tripathi, then chief secretary of the state to the Deccan Chronicle English daily newspaper. He was found guilty and arrested and was subjected to the third-degree torture and was forced to swear against some officers. After being released on bail, he started collecting information through Right to information act, and later made a blog post to make public the information he has gathered. It allegedly led to the second arrest of Shankar, but on charges of road rage. Thereafter he converted his blog into a website called, Savukku to expose corruption.

The first blog post was published anonymously on the website in September 2010 and it presently has around 960 posts since then including the 2G taped conversation.[5][6]

In 2010-2011, when Aam Aadmi Party leader and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan released the tapes of alleged conversation between Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi and the then Tamil Nadu police chief of intelligence, Jaffar Sait, it was said to have made public by the website three days earlier.[5][6]

On 1 February 2014, the website had publicly posted four tapes[4] exposing the conversation between Kanimozhi and former additional director general of police Jaffer Sait and between Jaffer Sait and Sharad Kumar Reddy, a former director of Kalaignar TV owned by Karunanidhi.[7] The authenticity of the taped conversation has not yet been challenged by either Kanimozhi or Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.[8]

Block[edit]

Mahalakshmi, an advocate and Sun TV newsreader had lodged a defamation case against the website for writing about her personal life, that she claimed have degraded her reputation. She later filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court citing inactivity of the police.[9]

On 28 February 2014, the Madras High Court ordered the Joint Secretary, Cyber Law Division of Union Department of Information Technology to block the website within ten days and called other affected individuals to lodge separate police cases, on hearing the writ petition filed by Mahalakshmi.[3][10][11] The court said that,

The reputation and status of not less than half a dozen judges, very many advocates, IAS and IPS officers stand attacked and damaged at the hands of this vituperative site.

The contents of the posts in the website are so grossly demeaning, so obnoxious and so harmful that they are not worthy of being brought in print in an order of this court."[10]

On 2 March 2014, following the court orders to block the website, many proxies were created to evade the block.[6] The website continued to host mirrors of the site Savukku, this time naming the Judge of the Madras High Court who is hearing the case.[12]

Achimuthu Shankar[edit]

Achimuthu Shankar is a former lower division clerk in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption, which he joined in 1991. In 2008, he allegedly made public sensational information which included taped conversation between S. K. Upadhyay, then Director of Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption, and L. K. Tripathi, then Chief Secretary, through the Deccan Chronicle English daily newspaper.[5] Following the leak of sensitive information in public, the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government of the Tamil Nadu state appointed a commission headed by Judge P. Shanmugam to probe the leak. Shankar was found guilty by the commission of inquiry. However, Shankar denied the allegations and said, charges were false and he was contesting them in courts. He also said that, he was made to face the third degree torture and was forced to bear witness against some officials. He was later released on bail.[5]

In mid-2010, He published a blog post of information collected through the Right to information act and he was arrested on the charges of road rage next day. He said, "The next day I was arrested on some false charges of road rage. I was expecting them to [arrest me]. They did not disappoint".[5][4]

He later upgraded his blog into a website after receiving encouragement by readers.[4] In 2011, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government lost the polls to form the government. Shankar opined, even though the new government, many stuffs related to social welfare still do not reach to public.[5] He said,

Even within media there is a lot of corruption. Who is going to write about it? I will.[5]

Shankar is an admirer of V. Prabhakaran, chief of LTTE. The website had a picture of V. Prabhakaran on one side and a picture of a cowboy with a whip on the other side of the header.[4] He continued to publish articles along with contesting the suspension of him from Department of Vigilance and Anti-corruption. He is called the Tamil's Julian Assange.[1][5]

The website was the first to release the 2G tapes ahead of Prasant Bushan. An audio of conversation between, Kalaignar TV MD, Sharad Kumar and former TN Intelligence Chief Jaffer Sait IPS [13]

The website was the first to expose the arithmetical errors in the judgment of Justice CR Kumarasamy, acquitting Selvi Jayalalitha, CM of Tamil Nadu in the month of May 2015 [14]

Arrests[edit]

On 31 January 2014, A Puducherry-based web designer Murugaiyan was arrested by the Cyber Crime Police of Chennai for designing the website.[12][15] After 21 days of imprisonment, Murugaiyan was released on bail by the Madras High Court.[7]

On 24 July 2014, Following the Madras High Court orders, Central Crime Branch arrested Pothi Kalimuthu on charge of hosting the website. He allegedly did own the website domain located in France and maintained a server located in Singapore for the website. The CCB officers had to make a request to the France Telecom through the Department of Telecommunications to reveal the address of the owner of the website domain.[16]

In a conversation, Achimuthu Shankar said to Indian Express English daily newspaper that, he met Kalimuthu online. Kalimuthu offered his help with making of new website after the original website was blocked on court orders and refused to take money for hosting the website.[16]

Protest[edit]

Professor A. Marx, a human rights activist said that, one may not necessarily agree with the contents posted by the website but the blocking the website is unacceptable. The affected individuals are free to take legal action separately.[8]

P. Sundarajan, a lawyer opined that, this is most unfortunate, and the particular Judge should refrain himself from hearing the case because he was also written about by the website and this order is nothing but a mockery of justice.[8]

Citizens for Freedom of Expression, an organisation comprising senior advocates and activists said that they will prosecute in the case on behalf of the website and said that, the court order is a serious threat to freedom of expression.[8]

A former BBC Tamil employee T.N. Gopalan filed a PIL in the Madras High Court, requesting the court to resist government from blocking the website except in the case described in the Information Technology Rules, 2009. Gopalan said that, he was not expecting the block on website which has discovered several scams and investigates and publishes information in public welfare.[17][18]

J. Anbazhgan, president of Chennai Union of Journalists said that the union believes that the complaint filed by Mahalakhsmi is not accurate and is related to the ownership of 2G tapes by Shankar and a representative from the union has met the chief minister J. Jayalalitha, to provide relief to Shankar.[5]

Acquittal[edit]

Savukku Shankar was acquitted by the XVII Additional Sessions Court Chennai on 24 February 2017. Shankar was charged under Sections 66, 70 and 72 of the Information Technology Act and was alleged to have leaked the conversation between former Chief Secretary to Government and former Director of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "'Savukku' Shankar: Is he India's Julian Assange?". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Savukku.net Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  3. ^ a b "HC directs cyber law division to block Savukku website". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Court blocks Tamil 'Assange' Shankar's website savukku.net". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Achimuthu Sankar: A loose canon or a homegrown Assange?". Business Standard. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "Proxies pop up after HC shuts down Savukku website". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  7. ^ a b R Ramasubramanian. "Is Kanimozhi's illness connected to second set of 2G tapes?". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Activists and lawyers fume over Madras High court order to shut down savukku.net". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Blogger Held for Woman Harassment". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Ban 'vituperative' Tamil website Savukku, orders Madras high court". Times of India. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "HC orders immediate ban of Tamil website". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  12. ^ a b http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Proxies-pop-up-after-Madras-high-court-orders-blocking-of-Savukku-website/articleshow/31258248.cms
  13. ^ url=https://soundcloud.com/savukku/jaffer-sait-and-sharad-kumar
  14. ^ url=https://www.savukkuonline.com/11643/
  15. ^ "Blog designer arrested for defamation". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  16. ^ a b http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Techie-in-Trouble-for-Aiding-Blogger-over-Savukku/2014/07/25/article2347486.ece
  17. ^ "Madras High Court sends notice to Centre on blocking website". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  18. ^ "HC issues notice to Centre on PIL against blocking website". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  19. ^ "Phone tapping case: Savukku Shankar acquitted". www.deccanchronicle.com/. 2017-02-25. Retrieved 2017-02-26.