Appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to amend the Draconian Section 66A of IT Act

Two Mumbai girls, Shaheen Dhada and Renu have been sent to jail for tweeting against the bandh observed due to the passing away of Shiv Sena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. A fortnight back a businessman Ravi was arrested because he tweeted against Karti Chidambaram, politician and son of Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Politicians and Police are using this Section now to harass citizens. Section 66A of the IT Act passed by the UPA government in 2008 is very draconian in nature. It says that anyone posting an ``offensive'' message in the social media or through electronic media. ``Offensive'' is a loose word used in Section 66A. (see the contents of Section 66A below) WE APPEAL TO PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH TO AMEND SECTION 66A IMMEDIATELY AND MAKE IT MORE FOCUSSED SO THAT THE REAL CULPRITS OF SUCH CRIME ARE ONLY PUNISHED AND NOT CITIZENS WHO ARE AIRING THEIR OPINION ON VARIOUS ISSUES IN THIS LARGEST DEMOCRACY OF OURS. What the section says: Section 66A of the IT Act is a relevant section which penalizes ‘sending false and offensive messages through communication services’. The section reads as under – 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. Punishment - Imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Explanation — For the purpose of this section, terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message. According to legal experts (courtsey: http://www.chmag.in), the section covers two different acts – ``Sending offensive or menacing messages sent by using electronic communication means; sending false messages to cheat, mislead or deceive people or to cause annoyance to them. While proving false message is relatively easy, but the real question is ‘What constitutes an electronic message to be offensive or of menacing character?’ Indian law has not defined anywhere the meaning of ‘offensive’ or ‘menacing’...'' ``Cyber crimes like, intentionally sending SPAM messages, phishing emails, threatening messages, etc. can also be punished under this section. This section is also applied along with Section 67 or 67B which is related to cyber and child pornography respectively.''

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