Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad
Union Cabinet Minister, Government of India
30 May 2019–7 July 2021Minister of Communications
5 July 2016–7 July 2021Minister of Electronics and Information Technology
5 July 2016–7 July 2021Minister of Law and Justice
26 May 2014–9 November 2014Minister of Law and Justice
26 May 2014–5 July 2016Minister of Communications and Information Technology
29 January 2003–22 May 2004Minister of Information and Broadcasting
1 July 2002–29 January 2003Minister of state in the Ministry of Law and Justice
1 September 2001–1 July 2002Minister of state in the Ministry of Coal
Minister state in the Ministry of Mines
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
Assumed office
23 May 2019
Preceded byShatrughan Sinha
ConstituencyPatna Sahib
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
3 April 2000 – 30 May 2019
Succeeded byRam Vilas Paswan
ConstituencyBihar
Personal details
Born (1954-08-30) 30 August 1954 (age 68)
Patna, Bihar, India
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party
SpouseMaya Shankar
Alma materPatna University (BA, MA, LLB)
ProfessionLawyer

Ravi Shankar Prasad (born 30 August 1954) is an Indian politician and lawyer, from the Bharatiya Janata Party.[1] A Member of Parliament since 2000, first in the Rajya Sabha (2000-2019) and then in the Lok Sabha (since 2019), Prasad has served as Union Minister multiple times: As Minister of State, he served in the ministries of Coal (2001-2003), Law and Justice (2002-2003), and Information and Broadcasting (2003-2004) under Atal Bihari Vajpayee's premiership; as Cabinet Minister, he held the Law and Justice (2014, 2016-2021), Communications (2014-2016, 2019-2021), and Electronics and Information Technology (2014-2021) portfolios under Narendra Modi's premiership.[2]

His term as Union Minister was marked with the repeal of 1500 archaic laws, the landmark resolution of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, handling of litigation over the purchase of Rafale fighter planes, and digitization of 15000 trial courts. On the other hand, his tenure also saw controversy over the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission, constant friction between the judiciary and the executive, and rows with social media platforms Twitter and Facebook over local rules.[3]

Early life and education

He was born in a religious Chitraguptvanshi Kayastha family in Patna, Bihar.[4][5] His father Thakur Prasad was a senior advocate at the Patna High Court and one of the leading founders of the Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the Bharatiya Janata Party.[6] His sister Anuradha Prasad is the owner of BAG Films and Media Ltd, and the wife of Congress politician Rajeev Shukla.[7][5]

Prasad earned BA Hons, MA (Political Science) and LL.B degrees from Patna University.[6] He became a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in 1969. Prasad participated in the student movement in Bihar led by Jayaprakash Narayan, and was imprisoned during the Emergency.[1][8]

Law career

Prasad has been practising at the Patna High Court (HC) since 1980. He was designated Senior Advocate at the Patna HC in 1999 and Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India in 2000.[1][9] He was General Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties in Bihar.[1]

Prasad appeared in the Ram Janmabhoomi Ayodhya dispute representing 'Ram Lalla', the deity, in the case. He defended Lal Krishna Advani in court when the latter was arrested in Bihar during his Rath Yatra in 1990. He was also the main lawyer arguing the PIL against former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam that led to the jailing of several politicians and officials, including Lalu Prasad.[5][8]

Political career

Prasad began his political career as a student leader under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s, organising protests against Indira Gandhi's government.[6]

Entry into the Bharatiya Janata Party

A loyalist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the beginning of his political career, Prasad was National Vice President of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the BJP, from 1991 to 1995. He became a Member of the BJP's National Executive Committee in 1995.[2][8]

2000-2004: Entry into Rajya Sabha and first ministerial roles

In April 2000, Prasad was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament for the first time. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee's premiership, Prasad served as Minister of State in the ministries of Coal (2001-2003), where he was responsible for accelerating the coal and mining reforms; Law and Justice (2002-2003); and Information and Broadcasting (2003-2004). As Minister of Information and Broadcasting, he introduced reforms in the radio, television and animation sectors which improved their quality and functioning.[2][6]

Opposition years

Prasad was appointed as a national spokesperson of the BJP in March 2006, and was later elevated to the post of its Chief National Spokesperson in 2007. In 2010, he became the party's general secretary.[2][6]

Prasad was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha for a second term in April 2006 and for a third in April 2012. As an MP, he was part of various parliamentary committees, including a joint parliamentary committee to examine matters relating to allocation and pricing of telecom licenses and spectrum from 2011 to 2013.[2]

Under Narendra Modi's premiership

Ravi Shankar Prasad taking charge as the Union Minister for Law and Justice, in New Delhi on May 27, 2014.
Ravi Shankar Prasad taking charge as the Union Minister for Law and Justice, in New Delhi on May 27, 2014.
Ravi Shankar Prasad taking charge as the Union Minister for Law and Justice, in New Delhi on June 03, 2019.
Ravi Shankar Prasad taking charge as the Union Minister for Law and Justice, in New Delhi on June 03, 2019.

With the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's victory in the 2014 general election,[10] Prasad rose to become part of the Narendra Modi Cabinet. He was appointed as Minister of Law and Justice and Minister for Communications and Information Technology on 27 May, 2014. He would go on to serve three terms as Law Minister: 27 May to 9 November, 2014; 5 July, 2016 to 25 May, 2019; and 30 May, 2019 to 7 July, 2021; a tenure of more than 5 years that was second only to that of Ashoke Sen.[11] Prasad was Minister of Communications and IT till the ministry's bifurcation on 5 July, 2016 into a Ministry of Communications and a Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, following which he took charge of the latter. He was on the job till 25 May, 2019, and again from 30 May, 2019 to 7 July, 2021. During the latter period, he also held the Communications portfolio.[2]

NJAC and Judiciary-Executive faceoffs

One of Prasad's first acts after becoming Law Minister in 2014 was introducing legislation for the National Judicial Appointments Commission, which sought to reform the collegium system by which judges select candidates to be appointed as new judges. The collegium system had been criticised as opaque. The law was unanimously passed in Parliament and ratified by more than 20 states. However, in 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck it down, arguing that the Law Minister's presence in the Appointments Commission would cripple judicial independence.[11]

The following year, the Law Ministry stalled many judges' appointments by objecting to various names recommended by the Supreme Court collegium. Prasad defended the executive in this faceoff with the judiciary by rolling out statistics showing an increased number of judges being appointed in the year 2016.[11]

Ayodhya and Rafale cases

A successful conclusion of the Ayodhya dispute was achieved by a Supreme Court judgement in 2019, during Prasad's tenure as Law Minister.[11][12] The government also received a favourable judgement on the controversy over the purchase of Dassault Rafale fighter planes.[11]

Triple talaq law

On 22 August, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled the Muslim practice of instant divorce by uttering the word "talaq" thrice, called talaq-e-biddat or triple talaq, as "arbitrary and unconstitutional", violating women's right to equality, and not integral to Islam.[13] Following this landmark verdict, the NDA government tabled The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in the Lok Sabha in December 2017, seeking to introduce a 3-year jail term for offenders. The opposition criticised the bill for attempting to criminalise a civil wrong, with Law Minister Prasad countering the charges. While the original bill lapsed due to lack of support in the Rajya Sabha, it was passed by both Houses of Parliament on reintroduction in 2019, becoming an Act after receiving Presidential assent on 1 August, 2019. The passage of the bill despite the ruling NDA not having a majority in the Rajya Sabha was seen as a victory for Prasad and the government.[14][15][16]

Digital India

Ravi Shankar Prasad addressing at the inauguration of the National Conference on Emerging Opportunities through CSC
Ravi Shankar Prasad addressing at the inauguration of the National Conference on Emerging Opportunities through CSC

As Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Prasad spearheaded the NDA government's flagship Digital India programme.[17] Prasad himself has highlighted the common service centre scheme under Digital India, providing digital delivery of services and creating employment, as the biggest achievement of the government in the digital technology sector. He has also pointed out the establishment of business processing and outsourcing units (BPOs) in far-flung areas and the growth of electronic manufacturing units in India as successful government efforts.[18] The UK-based NGO Apolitical adjudged him as one of the top twenty leaders in the list of 100 most influential people in Digital Government in 2018.[17]

In 2018, Prasad was placed among the top twenty influential world leaders in digital technology and e-government, with his role in the Digital India programme and support for net neutrality.[17][19]

Comments on Indian economy

In October 2019, Prasad tried to defend the condition of the Indian economy by commenting that "the holiday of October 2 saw earning[s] of over Rs 120 crore by three movies – War, Joker and Sye Raa", indicating that "[t]he economy is sound". He also claimed that an NSSO report on unemployment was false. The comment came on the back of industrial output figures released by the government showing how factory output had shrunk by 1.1% in August, recording the poorest performance in seven years. The World Bank had also pointed out the country's widening current account deficit and predicted a further slowdown in economic growth. After coming under sharp criticism from the opposition Congress and CPIM, Prasad withdrew the comment, stating it had been taken out of context.[20][21]

Clashes with 'Big Tech'

Prasad has openly supported the cause of net neutrality, insisting that internet access "is not negotiable" and “walled gardens cannot be allowed”. As Minister for Communications and IT, Prasad had denied Facebook permission for its Free Basics platform in India in 2016, saying it provided access to only a host of websites and services, while excluding the broader internet from its purview.[22][19]

On 25 February, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified,[23][24] seeking to regulate social media intermediaries and to tackle misuse of social media. However, Prasad and his Ministry were soon drawn into a bitter spat with Big Tech companies, especially Twitter, over the implementation of these local laws. The tussle escalated as the government removed Twitter's legal protection in India as an "intermediary" on June 16 over its failure to comply with the new IT rules,[25][26] while Twitter temporarily locked Prasad's official handle on its platform due to a copyright violation.[27]

Personal life

On 3 February 1982, Prasad married Maya Shankar, who is a Historian and Professor of History at Patna University.[9][28]

Also see

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Ravi Shankar Prasad". National Portal of India. Retrieved 15 October 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Members Bioprofile". Lok Sabha. Retrieved 15 October 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Das Gupta, Moushumi (7 July 2021). "Javadekar, Pokhriyal, RS Prasad, Harsh Vardhan — why Modi govt dropped big names from Cabinet". The Print. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  4. ^ Vyas, Hari Shankar (7 April 2013). "Brahmins in Congress on tenterhooks". The Pioneer. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Team Modi: Ravi Shankar Prasad - Lawyer of 'Ram Lalla'". India Today. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Ravi Shankar Prasad: The new telecom minister may find his hands full". Firstpost. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  7. ^ "BJP Observes 98th Birth Anniversary of Thakur Prasad". Patna Daily. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Ravi Shankar Prasad". Business Standard. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Prasad Returns to Union Cabinet with a Bag of Experience". The New Indian Express. PTI. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  10. ^ FP staff (17 May 2014). "Election results 2014: Historic win for NDA with 336 seats, 282 for BJP". Firstpost. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d e Mahapatra, Dhananjay (10 July 2021). "Prasad's 5-year tenure saw Ayodhya & Rafale cases settled, old laws junked". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  12. ^ India Today Web Desk (9 November 2019). "Ayodhya Ram Mandir case judgment: Supreme Court rules in favour of Ram Lalla | 10 Highlights". India Today. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  13. ^ Bagriya, Ashok, and Sinha, Bhadra (23 August 2017). "SC strikes down instant triple talaq, says practice is unconstitutional". The Hindustan Times. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  14. ^ "Triple Talaq Bill sails through in Rajya Sabha". The Hindu Business Line. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  15. ^ "History made, triple talaq bill passed by Parliament", indiatoday, Retrieved on 31st July2019.
  16. ^ Press Trust of India (1 August 2019). "President gives assent to triple talaq bill". India Today. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  17. ^ a b c "Ravi Shankar Prasad among top twenty most influential people in Digital Government". The Economic Times. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  18. ^ Mukul, Pranav (28 May 2018). "Ravi Shankar Prasad: 'Digital India has become a mass movement in 4 years'". The Indian Express. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  19. ^ a b Doval, Pankaj (24 November 2017). "Facebook, other social media giants won't get net exclusivity:Government". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  20. ^ HT Correspondent (10 July 2020). "Ravi Shankar Prasad defends economy with 3 movies made Rs 120 cr remark. Then withdraws it". The Hindustan Times. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  21. ^ TNM staff (12 October 2019). "Economy is sound, which is why 3 movies made Rs 120 cr: IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad". The News Minute. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  22. ^ Press Trust of India (16 December 2017). "Right to non-discriminatory internet access is non-negotiable: Ravi Shankar Prasad". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  23. ^ "Notification dated, the 25th February, 2021 G.S.R. 139(E): the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021". Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Retrieved 12 November 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ "Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules-2021" (PDF). Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Retrieved 12 November 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Sharma, Karuna (17 June 2021). "Twitter loses its legal protection in India: What it could mean for the platform and brands". Business Insider. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  26. ^ Singh, Soibam Rocky (5 July 2021). "Twitter failed to comply with new IT Rules: Centre to Delhi High Court". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  27. ^ Press Trust of India (25 June 2021). "Twitter blocks Ravi Shankar Prasad's account for 1 hour over 'violation' of US copyright laws". The Print. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  28. ^ "Interview: Anuradha Prasad, Managing Director, BAG films". www.bestmediainfo.com. Best Media Info. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.