New Delhi: On a day when the Supreme Court voiced its concern over recent incidents of people being arrested for posting alleged offensive messages on websites, the government on Thursday decided to modify rules under the controversial section 66A.
Following the uproar over arrests made under Section 66 (A) of the IT Act, the govt issued guidelines that state approval from an officer of SSP level at rural areas, SP or DCP level at urban areas and IG level in metros will have to be sought before registering complaints. Last week two girls were arrested over a FB post criticising the bandh like situation in Mumbai after Bal Thackeray's death.
Last week two girls were arrested over a Facebook post criticising the bandh like situation in Mumbai after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death while another boy was arrested on Wednesday for posting "vulgar" comments against MNS chief Raj Thackeray and the people of Maharashtra on the social networking site.
"... the concerned police officer or police station may not register any complaints unless he has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below the DCP rank in urban and rural areas and IG level in metros," sources said.
The government is confident that once these regulations are put in place, such instances will not be repeated, the sources added.
"There are procedural difficulties faced..., we are going to circulate to all state governments' as guidelines with regard to registering any complaints under Section 66 (A)," sources said.
Section 66 A, which is a bailable offence provides for a jail term of up to three years.
What the Section 66 (A) of IT Act says:
1. Punishment for sending offensive messages via electronic mail message.
2. Any electronic mail message that is grossly offensive or is menacing.
3. Any false info causing annoyance, insult, danger.
4. Causing inconvenience.
5. Deceiving or misleading recipient.
6. If guilty, faces up to 3 years in jail and a penalty.
SC summons attorney general over IT Act
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati to appear before it Friday to clarify the government's position on a PIL seeking to strike down section 66A of the IT Act 2000.
The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswar asked Vahanvati to appear before it after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi told the court that section 66A of the IT Act violated article 4, 19 (1) (a) and article 21 of the Constitution.
The section provides for action against people for posting offensive and annoying comments on websites or other electronic mediums.
The public interest petition was filed by student Shreya Singhal after people were arrested for violating the IT Act by posting comments critical of political leaders or events on the internet.
The court said: "The way things have taken place, it needs some consideration so that in future it does not happen again."