The Indian government has issued guidelines that state that approval from an officer of DCP level in the rural areas and of IG level in the metros will have to be taken before registering complaints under Section 66 (A) of the IT Act, reports The Hindu.
The decision comes right after numerous incidents of the misuse of the act being reported in past few weeks. The government claims that the implementation of these regulations will prevent the misuse of the IT Act.
Meanwhile, in another development, the Indian Supreme Court has also admitted a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed by a Delhi student, Shreya Singhal, challenging Section 66A of the IT Act, as reported by The Hindustan Times. The apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, directed the hearing of the PIL. The bench also mentioned that it was considering taking suo motu cognisance of recent incidents and questioned why nobody had challenged the particular provision of the IT Act.
The Supreme Court has now asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati to appear before the bench on Friday to clarify the government’s position on the PIL.
In her plea, Singhal had noted that “the phraseology of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 is so wide and vague and incapable of being judged on objective standards, that it is susceptible to wanton abuse and hence falls foul of Article 14, 19 (1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution”. She has also also sought issue of guidelines, by the apex court, to “reconcile section 41 and 156 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code with Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution” and that offences under the Indian penal Code and any other legislation if they involve the freedom of speech and expression be treated as a non-cognizable offence for the purposes of Section 41 and Section 156 (1).
The section 66 A of IT Act is a bailable offence and provides for a jail time of up to three years. Section 41 of the criminal procedure code allows the police to arrest any person without an order from the magistrate and without a warrant in the event that the offence involved is a cognizable offence. Section 156 (1) allows the police to undertake an investigation into a cognizable offence without an order of a magistrate.
Apart from that, Baijayant Panda, a member of the Indian Parliament, has moved a private members bill to amend Sec. 66A. He declared that in a tweet:
Just filed my bill 2amend #66A (diffrt frm dmand for free spch discssn); will take mnths 2list but if SC/Govt don’t act, can be next window!
— Baijayant Jay Panda (@Panda_Jay) November 29, 2012
It says: Just filed my bill to amend (Section)66A (different from demand for free speech discussion); (it) will take months to list but if SC/Govt don’t act, can be next windows!
November 29, 2012: Police dropped the case against Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan. Read more.
November 28, 2012: A 19 year old Palghar resident, Sunil Vishwakarma, was detained for allegedly writing an abusive post about MNS chief Raj Thackeray on his Facebook page.
November 26, 2012: Two Air India employees, Mayank Mohan Sharma and KVJ Rao, were arrested in May this year by the cyber crime cell of the Mumbai police for a Facebook post. Sharma and Rao had allegedly posted lewd jokes about politicians, made derogatory comments against the Prime Minister and insulted the national flag in their Facebook posts.
November 19, 2012: Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, from Palghar were arrested under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code for posting an anti-bandh update on Facebook. The girls were granted a bail after depositing a Rs 15,000 bond.
September 2012: Chandigarh’s Henna Bakshi and Kamalpreet Singh were booked under the IT Act for posting abusive messages on the Union Territory traffic police’s Facebook page. Under the IT act, the charges leveled against were are non-bailable and she could be seen serving a jail time of three years. On August 15, Bakshi posted abusive comments on the Union Territory traffic police’s Facebook page after the police failed to address her complaint about the theft of her car, which was stolen on August 11.