ibnlive » India

Nov 29, 2012 at 07:04pm IST

Govt modifies Sec 66(A) of IT Act after recent Facebook controversies

New Delhi: The government has modified rules under the controversial Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act in the wake of its alleged misuse in recent few cases. This comes a day after a 19-year-old boy was questioned by the police in Palghar over an alleged Facebook post against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. This also comes amidst the row over the arrest of two girls in Palghar over a Facebook post on late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

The government has issued an advisory to states on how to implement the controversial Section 66(A) of the IT Act. Government sources say that a prior approval from the Deputy Commissioner or IGP level officers is needed before the Station House Officer can register such complaints.

ALSO SEE SC to hear Delhi student's PIL challenging Sec 66(A) of IT Act

Government sources also say that the Maharashtra incident was not justified. Sources say the government acted on civil society fears that Section 66(A) was unconstitutional and open to misinterpretation.

Meawhile, a Delhi student has also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court challenging Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act which was invoked to arrest two girls in Palghar. The petition wants the offence under Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act to be made non-cognizable. The Supreme Court will hear the petition on Thursday afternoon.

Thane Superintendent of Police (rural) and Palghar police station Sub-Inspector were suspended for disobeying the orders of superiors while arresting two girls from Palghar for the Facebook post.

The Shiv Sena had called for bandh in Palghar on Wednesday to protest against the action on the policemen in the Facebook arrest case. Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said that the police officials were suspended for disobeying the orders of the IG of Konkan zone.

Meanwhile, in another case a 19-year-old boy has spoken out after his Facebook account was allegedly hacked and used to abuse MNS chief Raj Thackeray. The boy maintains that he never wrote the controversial post but believes it was written to create enmity in Palghar where a large number of North Indians live.

The boy was questioned about the post and let off on Wednesday after the MNS complained. A case has been filed against an unknown person under the IT Act. The Thane Cyber crime Cell is in the process of tracking the hacker.

What the Section 66 (A) of IT Act says:

1 Punishment for sending offensive messages via electronic mail message

2 Any electronic mail message that is grossly offensive or is menacing

3 Any false info causing annoyance, insult, danger

4 Causing inconvenience

5 Deceiving or misleading recipient

6 If guilty, faces up to 3 years in jail and a penalty.

New guidelines:

No less than a police officer of a rank of DCP will be allowed to permit registration of a case under provisions of the Information Technlogy Act that deals with spreading hatred through electronic messages, following uproar over recent arrests under the controversial law.

In the case of metropolitan cities, such an approval would have to come at the level of Inspector General of Police. "... the concerned police officer or police station may not register any complaints (under Section 66 (A)) unless he has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below the DCP rank in urban and rural areas and IG level in metros," a top source said.

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