Government Is Planning To Bring Back The Dreaded 66A In New Packaging: Report

26/02/2016 4:01 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
An Indian man surfs the internet inside an internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. India's top court reaffirmed people's right to free speech in cyberspace Tuesday by striking down a provision that had called for imprisoning people who send "offensive" messages by computer or mobile phone. The provision, known as Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act, says sending such messages is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The Indian government may soon put forward a new draft legislation to replace the contentious section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which the Supreme Court struck down last year, deeming it unconstitutional and against freedom of speech. According to a report in the Economic Times, a committee under the home ministry has made recommendations on an amendment to the existing IT Act, which would bring back some features of the erstwhile section 66A, albeit in a more nuanced and specific way.

An unnamed senior government source told ET that the focus of the new law is to "deal with terror and serious law & order issues" and that the striking down of 66A had left a vacuum in the law which may allow criminals to fall through the cracks as they'll be beyond the ambit of the law.

ALSO READ: Why I Fought Section 66A

If the home ministry decides to pass these new recommendations, the communications and IT ministry will amend the law after consultations. One of the main reasons for the striking down of 66A was that it was found to be vague and used against civilians practicing their constitutional right to freedom of speech. Government sources told ET that the new law would be "milder and more specific".

ALSO READ: What 66A Judgment Means For Free Speech Online

In the past, 66A has been invoked by police forces for clamping down on students commenting online against state-sponsored political shutdowns in Maharashtra, complaining against the Prime Minister in a social networking site, and circulating an internet joke on a chief minister, among others.

ALSO READ: A Timeline Of Section 66A And The Arrests Made Under It

According to the report, the new law would only allow police officials of a certain rank to order arrests under it, and would bring hate speech under its ambit. The committee includes home ministry officials and those from several national security agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency.

ALSO READ: This 24-Year Old Girl Fought India's Government To Win Its People Freedom Online

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