Sibal admits it was misused by Mumbai police in the Palghar episode

The Centre will ask the State governments to check the misuse of Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, so as to avoid instances such as two Mumbai girls being wrongfully booked under the Section for their comments on Facebook after the demise of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

While replying to a question from Jai Prakash Narayan Singh in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal admitted that the Section was misused by the Mumbai police. Hence the Centre had decided to send an advisory to the State governments not to allow sub-inspectors to invoke the provision.

Constitutional right

Mr. Sibal stressed that the freedom of expression was fundamental to the country’s democratic setup. A meeting of all stakeholders would be held to convey the imperativeness to uphold and protect the constitutional guarantee. The States would be asked not to allow any sub-inspector to apply the Section without the higher authorities’ approval.

The Minister noted that five instances of the provision being invoked were reported, but ruled out repealing the provision altogether as, he said, it would lead to disastrous consequences.

Kishtwar case

The Minister assured Balbir Punj (BJP) that the advisory would take care of the case of two teachers in Kishtwar region of Jammu and Kashmir who were arrested and harassed for their post on Facebook.

Later, through a private member’s resolution, P. Rajeeve (CPI-M) said the Section needed to be amended as mere guidelines could not overrule legal provisions or resolve the problem.

BJP’s Gyanprakash Pilania, Trinamool Congress’ D. Bandopadhyay and the BJD’s Baishnab Parida maintained that the Section would continue to be misused if it is not amended. BJP’s M. Rama Jois (retired judge) said Sections like 69 and 80 of the Act also terrorised people for expressing their views.

The Congress benches, led by Santaram Naik, countered them, saying that one instance of Palghar in Mumbai did not warrant an amendment.

Responding to the discussion, Mr. Sibal noted that the issues raised were important but reiterated that the law would not be diluted.

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