Post Aseem-FB-Twitter arrests row, is it time to ‘redefine’ controversial laws?
New Delhi: Although the government has amended the IT Act in the wake of recent incidents of arrests of two girls over facebook posts criticising the bandh observed in Mumbai after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death and also the detention of a boy on November 28 for posting "vulgar" comments against MNS chief Raj Thackeray and the people of Maharashtra on the social networking site, the question of law being ‘vague’ remains same.
The recent amendment in IT Act has merely made a provision under Section 66A which states that approval from an officer of deputy commissioner (DCP) level in rural and urban areas and inspector general (IG) level in metros will have to be sought before registering complaints under the controversial section.
However, it has not made any changes in the law which states that "any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any information that was grossly offensive or has a menacing character could be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of three years, besides imposing appropriate fine."
The broad spectrum of vagueness of 66A still exists given that DCP and IG may also find it difficult to judge what exactly constitutes the crime. How a person can be charged under IT Act and sedition law?
Remember what happened in the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who was arrested on charges of sedition. The public debate that followed his arrest had made some senior ministers at the Centre sit up and press for an amendment in the provisions relating to sedition in the Indian Penal Code.
At the meeting chaired by Finance Minister P Chidambaram with Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the ministers even agreed that the outdated law of this nature (Sedition Law) need to be amended.
As also in the case of Ravi Srinivasan, a volunteer with India Against Corruption, who was arrested for his tweet on October 20 which stated: “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.” His tweets had reportedly made references to P. Chidambaram also. Although Srinivasan was released on bail the same day after being produced before a judicial magistrate, the arrest sparked a public debate about how the 'law' was being misused by cops to curb the voice, in this case, the freedom of expression in online communications.
Following the arrests of Aseem Trivedi, two Palghar women and Ravi Srinivasan, is it time for government to repeal such controversial laws?
Or is it time to ‘re-define’ the existing laws to make it more meaningful?