Does Section 66A curb or safeguard the social media?

February 04, 2015 05:48 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:32 pm IST


What do you think Section 66A does better? Fight cyber crime or curb free speech?

The law prescribes 3-years jail for anyone causing “annoyance or inconvenience” on the social media. Does constantly posting animal videos qualify as annoying and culpable?

Does the cyber cell of the police have the expertise to judge whether an Internet user is being annoying enough to be arrested?

Does the curb on offensive/annoying posts encroach upon fundamental rights such as expressing political dissent, for instance?

Does Section 66A curb or safeguard the social media?

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act seems to have accentuated the thin line between the rights of free speech and taking offence. >Read More

Right from the >arrest of two Mumbai girls last year following Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's death to the recent launching of criminal prosecution >against a Bengaluru couple for "menacing tweets" , (both later quashed), the Act >raises many questions .

Such instances have underscored the need to end the misuse of the law by the police.

The Centre, however, on Tuesday asserted before the Supreme Court that the law was meant to fight cyber crimes. >Read More

What is the law?

Section 66A provides punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services.

These messages may be any information created, transmitted or received on a computer system, resource or device including attachments in the form of...

• Text

• Images

• Audio

• Video

• Any other electronic record which may be transmitted with the message

The law targets messages that...

• Are grossly offensive or menacing

• Proffer false information intending to cause annoyance, inconvenience, intimidation, insult, obstruction, etc.,

• Are intended at deceiving the addressee about the origin of the message

The law was amended in 2008 and received Presidential assent on February 5, 2009.

Here are some of the views posted by Facebook users , most of whom seemed to feel 66A curbs free speech rather than genuinely fight cyber crime:

Jugal Krishna Paul _ 66A serves no purpose but simply gags our throats. We have already seen a lot of its misuse. It should be immediately removed from the statute.

Praveen Kumar _ It is bogus to claim that Section 66A will fight cyber crime. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which entitles every individual to articulate his view. The govt. cannot take away this very dear right just because it is incompetent to protect the communication network.

Nishana Sujith _ Ok, from now on I'll stick to posting status updates on my breakfast and dinner. I hope that's not annoying enough to get me jailed! Wait, am I a citizen of a democratic republic or an absolute monarchy?

Vijayamohan Vuppaladhadiam _ We should define rudeness, uncivility, obscenity etc with much greater clarity. Freedom of speech cannot be used to be rude, uncivil and obscene. But, at the same time, these cannot be misused to thwart genuine freedom of expression. As a society, we need reasonable guidelines and go by it.

Rohan Kusnur _ Any restriction which is not covered under IPC or does not fall under Article 19(2) of the Constitution is wrong. It is a violation of our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Anand Nair _ It is useless to expect anythign from cyber cell. After all, they are police personnel — the biggest enemy of the common man.

Mohammed Mubashir _ By framing the question as "Fight cyber crime or curb free speech?" we are actually looking at two extremes, which is not good for society. Religions and its rule books were handed down to us by evaluating predecessors so we can live better with dignity. Therefore, it is a tough call to prosecute religious remarks as communalising. Nothing is absolute; there is always a boundary for anything.

Ashok Thyagarajan _ Any person comes into public life for politics, media, governance, show biz, etc., must be ready to face public criticism as every act of theirs does have repurcussions for which they are accountable & answerable; they can't hide behind the judiciary, expecting anyone criticising to go through rigmarole of the legal system in a democracy such as India. Freedom of speech should prevail foremost as we are NOT China or Russia, where Communalism do not permit Freedom of Speech.

Can the government explain what is cyber crime? Look at the United States or European Countries or Australia for the way they respect public opinion or their people's fundamental rights; where do we stand as the largest Democracy?

Philip Malangmei _ Free speech is inalienable to citizens. Any blacket ban on certain forms of expression are definite curbs on free speech and counts as suppression of basic human rights. If continued, 66A may lead to further unethical practices by the few powerful. It should be monitored on case-by-case basis.

Comment in with your views on the law. Relate any personal instances in which you have faced doubts as to the legality of online posts or messages. Follow #Socialmediacurbs on our Twitter handle @the_hindu and tell us what you think.

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