Against the backdrop of some arrests on posting on social networking sites, Telecom and IT Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said a provision in the Information Technology Act has been misused in some states and the Centre will soon issue an advisory to check it.
“As per our assessment, there has been misuse (of Section 66A of IT Act) in some states...It is my personal opinion and also of Central Government that it (misuse) is not right.
Hopefully, we will issue an advisory at the earliest,” Mr. Sibal said replying to questions in Rajya Sabha.
He, however, said the misuse is not rampant.
Mr. Sibal was responding to questions on whether Section 66A is prone to misuse by law enforcement agencies and what steps the government is taking to amend it to check the misuse.
There has been uproar after two girls were arrested in November over a Facebook post criticising the bandh like situation in Mumbai after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s death. Another boy was arrested for posting ‘vulgar’ comments against MNS chief Raj Thackeray and the people of Maharashtra on the social networking site.
Section 66A provides for punishment up to three years for sending via electronic mail messages which are grossly offensive, menacing, insulting, dangerous or causing inconvenience.
The minister said there was a need to educate the police and implementing agencies on the issue.
Mr. Sibal said Section 66A was provided in the Act based on the international best practices and similar provisions in the Communications Acts of a number of countries.
The provisions, he said, are in line with the freedom of speech and expression and citizen’s right enshrined in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
Mr. Sibal said India will protect right of freedom of speech to the citizen with greater vigour than any other country.
Mr. Sibal said the government has held discussion with stakeholders including industry associations, intermediaries and users to address the issue of proper implementation of the provisions of the Act.
“It has been agreed to provide necessary guidelines to prevent misinterpretation of the provisions of the Act and to minimise the unintended consequences,” he said.