The Supreme Court of India has allowed a public interest litigation filed by a law student in Delhi requesting to review the section 66 A of the I T Act under which two girls were arrested for posting comment and 'like' in face book. The court sent notices to the Central Government and State Governments in the matter.
This particular I T act was one of the bills passed without any discussion in Parliament when the session was in chaos on some political issues. Many people had voiced their protest at that time against passing such an important bill under voice vote without discussion.
Thanks to the Hartal in Mumbai, it was with the arrest of two girls who expressed their dismay on the Hartal in Bombay in a Face book comment that the real face of the I T Act appeared for public view. Millions of users of Face book got really shocked. According to the Section 66A it is easy to arrest any targeted person who post comments in Face book or in Mobile Phone.
As per the Act a person can be sent to jail up to 3 years if found guilty of sending electronic Mail message that is offensive or menacing 2. False information that causes annoyance, insult, danger, or inconvenience and 3. Messages that deceive or mislead a recipient.
Although it says ' electronic mail' in the Act, an opinion posted in the face book also comes within the ambit of the rule as was proved with the arrest of two Bombay girls. As things stand now, a person who finds a particular posting in the Net as offensive can complain with the Police and the person who posted it can be arrested immediately. The wordings in the Act are too broad for a judicious execution and it can be interpreted to one’s convenience up to the point of settling scores. The Section 66 makes internet in India to become a platform without even the freedom of expression enjoyed by Magazines or Newspapers.
If the Act 66 is made applicable to Newspapers and Magazines the publishing houses will stop printing as no Newspapers can be published without attracting arrest. The editorials, Readers’ comments and News reports are full of remarks on various issues and without them a Newspaper would look like a Government Gazette. Similarly what is Face book without comments and 'likes' Actually there is little difference between the print media and electronic media for all its intent and purposes, as such, the laws governing the print media are enough to manage the electronic media too.
And if the Government feels like creating a new Act exclusively for internet it must be made with utmost care shutting out loopholes to prevent misuse. The internet should not be made to look menacing to its users as happened to those innocent girls in Bombay.
The Supreme Court’s timely intervention on this important matter has to be lauded any way.