With the Supreme Court striking down Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, the Kerala Police will have to file refer reports in at least 500 cases, including some high profile ones, under investigation in courts for closing the cases.
This includes a case filed against seven persons for wrongly depicting the house of CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan, a case for posting derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, another one for propagating a video clip of a cine actor at a cinema award function, and the one filed by an actor against circulating her morphed picture.
The police have filed 74 cases in Ernakulam alone invoking the said provision of the Act.
They had also registered 229 cases since 2009 invoking the other provisions of the IT Act, sources said.
Though the controversial section has been scrapped, law provides recourse for those targeted by malicious and defamatory statements and publications in cyber world too, pointed out criminal law experts.
Those aggrieved can approach a competent court of law with a private complaint invoking Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which defines the offence of defamation and prescribes punishment for it.
According to the provisions of the code, “whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” Section 66 of the IT Act has prescribed a punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
The provisions of the IPC can very well be extended to materials published in social media sites and circulated through the electronic media, including mobile phones.
While defaming a person in the social media is a cognisable offence under Section 66 A of the IT Act, where the police can take suo motu case or any person can approach the police with the complaint, only affected parties can approach the court with the complaint in case of defamation as defined in the IPC.
Removal of objectionable materials from the server of an IT service provider will not be an easy task for private complaints unless a specific order is secured from the competent court.