Many of you might have woken up today with the news that the SC has deemed Section 66A of Indian IT Act as unconstitutional and struck it down. So what is this section 66A all about?
What is Section 66A
Legally the section 66A is worded as
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) 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 by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) 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 three years and with fine.
Basically in it’s purest form section 66A seems to have been formulated to protect against spreading of messages that can incite violence, promote hatred or online bullying by spreading false rumors.
So why the hoopla?
So why were people so pissed with the law and why was there so much hoopla over it. Well the issue is that law operates in words , it is not what the law intends to do but what the interpretation of the wording of the law can be.
Concentrate on the words “grossly offensive or has menacing character” , “annoyance “, “inconvenience” , “danger“, “persistently ” .
Who decides what is offensive? Who decides if it has menacing character? what is the measure of danger?
In it’s practical form the entire law is basically a tool to bully and intimidate the junta by the people in power . Eg: What if you want to criticize a Politician and he/she deems it as offensive ? You get arrested and go to jail. What about a satire/cartoon site ? Are they allowed to make political satire at all? What about you talking about flaws in a religion?
The problem is that these cases have happened in the past . Aseem Trivedi‘s cartoons against corruption site was banned, a Jadavpur university professor was arrested for forwarding a caricature of Mamta Banerjee , three people spent 40 days in jail just because they were tagged in a video that was possibly blasphemous to a certain religion.
Should I be happy?
By all means yes , yes and yes. Congress introduced this and BJP actually tried to strengthen this and even defended it in court. They even want the online world to be regulated.
Internet is one of the last places to be free from government control and it is in our best interests to keep it that way. No Good democracy can survive until there is a free flow of information, unbiased sharing of opinions and a freedom from fear of prosecution for voicing your views(unpopular ) .
If internet is also compromised , we may become like china and from what all people say , that is not a nice thing to be.
My Older post : when I flipped out when CartoonsAgaisntCorruption was banned . I am happy today that this idiotic law is now gone
I send infrequent newsletters. You can signup for them below.