'Make act more relevant to the needs of technology'
MiD DAY speaks to experts to learn whether the government's guidelines will actually change anything
There is a need to sensitise law enforcement agencies about the possible misuse of Section 66 A of the IT Act. Making amendments to the IT Act is a different issue, but in my ministry’s view, we are always open to ideas in connection to any Act or law. As far as Section 66 A goes, many countries have similar provisions in their Cyber Act. However, I feel using the IT Act in haste can cause misuse. I am also a social media user, and nobody needs to fear communicating freely using social media. We are doing our best to safeguard cyberspace and prevent its misuse.
— Milind Deora, Minister of State for IT, Communication and Shipping
An Act is created only by the parliament and only the parliament can amend it. Fundamental flaws under section 66 A, which already discriminates against online speech, are not being addressed. Section 66 A imposes far more restrictions on free online speech, as compared to the restrictions imposed upon free speech in the actual world by the Constitution. We clearly need to amend the IT Act, and make it more relevant and topical with the needs of technology.
— Pavan Duggal, SC advocate and cyber law expert
Under Section 66A, even a peaceful online post could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years. The restrictions it imposes are not in line with the Constitution of India and internationally accepted standards on freedom of expression. A right to freedom of expression is also guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party. Amnesty International India calls on the Government to review Section 66A of the IT Act and bring it in line with international standards on freedom of expression.
— Shashikumar Velath, director of programmes, Amnesty International India
Section 66 A of the IT Act needs to be brought into a more defined area, so as to curb any abuse or misuse of the provision. The decision of what constitutes an annoyance cannot be left to the discretion of a policeman.
— Aspi Chinoy, senior counsel
Since amendments are bound to take time, it is necessary for the government to issue some direction to the law enforcing agencies detailing the circumstances in which they can register cases. The power of arrest should rest with only senior officers.
— Amit Desai, senior counsel
At local police stations, officers need proper training and guidance to avoid such subjective interpretation and ad hocism. The proposed changes are in the right direction. With rising cyber crimes, it is an evolving and learning process for all those concerned.
— Meenakshi Maheshwari, chartered accountant and victim of online defamation
It is definitely a step forward, but it does not mean that it resolves the issue, because it is still open for interpretation, which may vary from individual to individual.
— Ashwin Mushran, actor