ibnlive » Chat

5 pm Dec 03, 2012

Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology (IT) Act

Should the Section 66(A) of the IT Act go in whole? Or are some selective amendments enough? Get the right perspective from the country's senior-most cyber law expert.
9 questions answered
  • Pls explain Section 66(A) of the IT Act. Asked by: HS
  • Pavan Duggal Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 makes it an offence when you send, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any of the following information: 1) any information that is grossly offensive; 2) any information that has menacing character; 3) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing annoyance; 4) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing inconvenience; 5) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing danger; 6) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing obstruction; 7) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing insult; 8) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing injury; 9) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing criminal intimidation; 10) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing enmity; 11) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing hatred; or 12) any information which you know to be false but which is sent for purpose of causing ill will. All the above as per (3) to (12) must be done persistently by using a computer resource or communication device. 13) any e-mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance; 14) any e-mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing inconvenience; 15) any electronic mail or electronic mail message to deceive the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages; 16) any e-mail or electronic mail message to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages. So if you are a social media user or even if you are a user of a computer system or mobile, be careful! You could be brought within the ambit of this Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • for culpable homicide and section 66A, we have almost similar punishment! Do you think it is justified? Asked by: pc
  • Pavan Duggal The offence of culpable homicide is defined under Section 299 IPC. There are two kinds of culpable homicide. Culpable homicide, amounting to murder, is covered under Section 300 IPC. The same is punishable under Section 302 IPC with death or imprisonment for life and also with fine. Further, the second category of culpable homicide is culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The same is punishable under Section 304 IPC with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and also with fine, in case the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. Further if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, such act of culpable homicide is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both. Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is a much lighter offence. It is made punishable imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and also with fine. Both of these offences do not have similar punishment. Since the two offences do not have similar punishment, they are not capable of being compared.
  • What is the punishment under this act? Asked by: Sneha
  • Pavan Duggal Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act 2000 is an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and with fine.
  • We see a lot of filth on internet like personal abuses,families of politicians targeted hiding behind anonymity. What is the remedy or we just have to learn to live with it? Asked by: Kamal Agg
  • Pavan Duggal Internet is a vast data ocean with an infinite memory. As such, it is impossible to expect that the Internet will not have any undesirable content that you have mentioned. People tend to hide behind the anonymity provided by the internet and engage in behaviour that they would not want to do, while in civilized society. Given the intrinsic nature of Internet, there will be both good and bad elements therein. We will further have to inculcate self discipline in terms of adopting the good elements residing on the Internet while ignoring the bad elements. As far as people hiding behind anonymity, people have to realize that cloak of anonymity on the Internet is now increasingly being pierced by courts of law. In various litigations and orders, the courts of law across the world including India have directed the service providers to provide complete identity details of the relevant person who hide behind the cloak to anonymity provided by the Internet and engage in criminal and illegal activities.
  • Do you think the media should have been a little more vigilant when the law was passed? How do we explain such words as 'causing annoyance' in the law? Asked by: Abhishek Ghosh
  • Pavan Duggal Yes, the media had not been vigilant earlier when the law was passed. In fact the law was passed without discussion. Because this legislation has been passed without discussion, these kinds of vast words have crept in. There is need for ensuring that amendments in the law impacting general population and their usage of digital format, being the amended information technology Act, 2000, need to be well debated in the public domain before passing.
  • Why is it that politicians can deny their statements and the public being more accountable for their opinions? Asked by: EMathew
  • Pavan Duggal This is so because Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 itself perpetuates discrimination. Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 discriminates against online speech as contradistinguished from free speech in the physical world. This is the reason why Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 becomes a tool for making the unknown faces of the public more accountable, even for their opinions held legitimately and bonafidely, in exercising of their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
  • Sec 66(A) seems to be very ambiguous. Politicians have been using this sec as a means to target their harsh critics. Is this just and what can be done to ensure Freedom of Speech for the public. Asked by: EMathew
  • Pavan Duggal I completely agree that Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is drafted in very vague and ambiguous terms. Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is being used as a tool of convenience. The language and scope of legal terms used under Section 66A are very wide and are capable of distinctive varied interpretations. Seen from another angle, Section 66A can be effectively used as a tool for gagging legitimate free online speech. The problem under Section 66A is that it comes up with extremely wide parameters which have not been given any specific definitions under the law. These parameters are capable of being interpreted in any manner possible, by the law-enforcement agencies. I do not believe that Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 needs to be given as a draconian tool for potential misuse. Given the extremely elastic nature of the words used therein, Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 could be used in a majority of instances of examples featuring legitimate free online speech. I distinctly believe that every citizens of India, being the members of the public, is entitled to fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. This freedom of speech is available both in the physical world as also in the online world. Steps need to be undertaken to ensure that freedom of online speech does not muzzled or trammeled under the garb of draconian provisions like Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000. There is a need for ensuring that the restrictions that are given under Section 66A of the amended Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 need to be extremely narrowed down and only made synchronous with the reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression as are mandated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
  • would amendments in the law be enough ? Here in our State of UP, the cops are absolutely in the dark about ITA 2000, so they charge everyone under section 420. Asked by: Arun Agrawal
  • Pavan Duggal We will have to adopt a cumulative strategy consisting of various initiatives simultaneously as we proceed forward. Currently, the law being the Information Technology Act, 2000 is defective in certain provisions. As such, the amendments in the Indian Cyberlaw will have to be done. This is only one aspect of the entire strategy. After the amendment of the law, the amended law will have to be implemented appropriately. Further steps will have to be taken that the provisions of the law are interpreted in accordance with the objectives of the law and not in a manner so as to prejudicially impact the rights and civil liberties of the citizens as also netizens and users, of the digital medium including users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, computer resources and communication devices as also data and information in the electronic form. Further there is a need for tremendous capacity building. The relevant stakeholders in the mobile and digital ecosystem be it the law enforcement agencies, police as also the judiciary will have to be appropriately involved in institutionalized capacity building exercises so as to ensure that there are uniformity of approaches adopted while dealing with emerging kinds of cybercrimes and challenges put forward by the emergence and rapid adoption of mobile and digital ecosystem and the components inherent therein. The state mentioned state in India by you is not alone. The police in various parts of the country have not much clue about the Information Technology Act, 2000 as also its offences. Further, we have seen intrinsic trends of the law enforcement to only rely upon the provisions of the time tested Indian Penal Code. There is a marked hesitancy on the part of the police to invoke Sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • if this law has been copy pasted from other laws around the world, then is the problem not in the implementataion rather than the law itself? Asked by: kapil dev
  • Pavan Duggal Internet today has enabled copy and paste phenomenon. However, mere copy-paste of legal provisions existing in other jurisdictions and making as part of our law would not suffice. There is a need for far more customization so as to ensure that the said provisions are relevant in the context of India and conditions present here.

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Pavan Duggal
SC lawyer & cyber law expert