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Air India employees arrested for online post against SC order; allege misuse of IT Act


Kajal Iyer, Shawan Sen, CNN-IBN
Nov 26, 2012 at 01:13pm IST

Mumbai: Even as the country debates the arrest of the two girls who were picked for their comments on late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray on Facebook, here's another case. Two Air India employees were arrested under the same IT Act for criticising Supreme Court orders.

Charges against the two girls in Palghar have been dropped after an enquiry showed misuse of the IT Act. But the two Air India cabin crew members have not been so lucky. KVJ Rao and Mayank Sharma were arrested in May 2012 for allegedly posting derogatory remarks against the Supreme Court in a closed online group for Air India employees. They, too, allege that the IT act was misused in their case.

But the man who filed the case against them, a trade union leader, insisted that he was justified in seeking police action. Air India union leader Sagar Karnik said, "I first approached the websites and reported abuse and sought for removal of the posts, but the websites said I will have to approach the local police for the same."

The case, though, once again highlights several issues. For instance:

- When does an online comment amount to just civil defamation, and when does it become false or offensive message as defined by section 66 A of the IT act?

- IT law does not clearly define 'offensive' or 'menacing' messages, so what guidelines can the police use to apply apply these sections?

- Is the IT law increasingly being used to settle personal scores?

Be it the case of P Chidambaram's son Karti, the two Palghar girls or the Air India crew members, internet users are increasingly getting a message that they have to be wary of what they post. But the question really is as to who decides and how on where to draw the line between freedom of expression and offensiveness.

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