Kapil Sibal says Facebook arrests wrong, mulls change in IT law to prevent misuse

Nov 23 2012, 10:54 IST
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SummaryWe may ask them that unless the designated officer decides that the offence requires police action, no action should be initiated.

need to educate the police on the law.

“That problem is there... the cops are not aware of many laws,” he said. “But in a mature democracy, as we grow, officials get sensitised. The (instances of) abuse come(s) down. Those affected by the abuse will ask questions of those abusing the law. I am sure instances like the recent one (in Maharashtra) where there is an outcry against the misuse, people also get sensitised, as do the officials.”

Sibal, who is also a renowned lawyer, said that the two women in Palghar — Shaheen Dhada, who posted that the shutdown after Thackeray’s death was not necessary, and Rinu Srinivas, who ‘liked’ the post — should not have been arrested.

“The girls should not have been arrested. About that there is no doubt,” he said. “But I don’t agree with those who say that since the act is liable to being misused, it is unconstitutional and hence should be scrapped. By this logic, why don’t we do away with provisions in other laws, particularly the Indian Penal Code, that are routinely misused?”

Asked to elaborate, he said: “Let’s look at Section 66A (of IT Act). It says ‘any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character...’ What does this mean? Anything offensive can’t be acted upon. It has to be ‘grossly offensive’. Words like ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing character’ can’t be defined... (Similarly,) in the constitution, you can’t define what is ‘public interest’, ‘decency’ or ‘morality’. You can’t define ‘reasonable’. But you have these in the constitution... In the IPC, you have the term ‘mischief’. Who is to interpret mischief?... The law is not bad, (but) the implementation may be faulty. We need to rectify that.”

The minister said there was “no denying that there has been abuse” of Section 66A. “For that we need to sensitise law enforcement agencies that it is not the intent of this law that any innocuous statement made or any opinion is liable to be acted upon. Arbitrary arrests can’t be made,” he said.

Asked for a reaction on the allegation that the government is trying to muzzle freedom of expression on the web by bringing in too many rules and laws, Sibal said, “Not government. They say Kapil Sibal. But, let me tell you, there is no such intent. In fact, you would know,

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