Government is working on restoring with “suitable modifications” the controversial Section 66A of Information Technology Act which the Supreme Court struck down in March.
- The MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS (MHA) has formed a panel headed by former Law Secretary T K Vishwanathan to examine the implications of the apex court judgement and “suggest restoring of 66A of Information Technology Act 2000 with suitable modifications and safeguards to make it fully compatible with constitutional provisions”.
- Many people have been arrested for posting cartoons of politicians or criticizing them when the act was in force.
- The MHA has asked the panel to suggest alternate legal measures to avoid the possible misuse of social media in the interest of National Security and maintenance of public order.
- Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of TK Vishwanathan, former Secretary, Law Commission and Secretary General Lok Sabha has been set up by MHA to study the Supreme Court judgment on section 66A of IT Act and recommend a road map with measures and amendments to the present laws for consideration of the Government.
- The apex court had called section 66A of the IT Act “unconstitutional”, saying it has a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech and expression.
- The apex court had rejected appeal to strike down section 69A of IT Act that gives the government power to block websites or any information that can be accessed through any computer in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of nation and so on.
66A of IT Act:
According to the act,
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device-
- any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character ,
- any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
- any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two three years and with fine.
“Will be punished with imprisonment up to three years, a fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh, or both.”