I am no law student but vouch for Internet freedom. In the last one year I have developed a fair amount of knowledge on the IT Act 66A, thanks to our officials who have misused the length and breadth of it. The recent case that has come under the belt of IT Act 66A ((Section 66-A deals with messages sent via computer or communication devices which may be “grossly offensive,” have “menacing character,” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience)) is the arrest of Jaya Vindhayal, the state general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on the grounds of objectionable post against A Krishna Mohan, a Congress MLA from Chirala in Prakasam district.
Why Jaya Vindhayal was arrested?
Jaya Vindhayal, a lawyer and president of the Andhra Pradesh unit of People’s Union for Civil Liberties or PUCL, was arrested in Hyderabad on Sunday afternoon. Section 66A has been applied on her as the Congress MLA has complained to the police on April 18th that 4 weeks ago Vindhayal has accused him of being involved in various crimes such as child trafficking, ganja mafia, sand mafia and land mafia. The baseless accusations have tarnished the image of the MLA in the society, reported NDTV. In another story from FirstPost, it is being said that along with the Congress MLA, objectionable comments have been posted against Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah. In addition to this, the police also claims that Vindhayal had also allegedly distributed pamphlets making objectionable allegations against Rosaiah and Mohan before posting the comments online.
Plea filed by Shreya Singhal
The arrest that was made on April 18th under the controversial act, has now taken an interesting turn. Law student Shreya Singhal, has challenged the validity of Section 66A and has urged that no arrests should be made under the Section till the Supreme Court decides on her PIL.
Shreya had filed the PIL last year when Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan were arrested on their Facebook activities voicing concern against the shut down in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death. The arrest that was condemned by even political parties was made under 66A, which forced the government to take a look at the controversial IT Act. Thereafter the PIL has been pending before the apex court.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the plea put forward by Shreya restraining government authorities from taking any coercive action against anyone for posting alleged objectionable comments on social networking sites. The good news is that while I am writing the post, HT has tweeted that the SC has announced no arrests should be made without the permission of senior officials.
No arrest should be made for posting objectionable comments on social networking sites without permission of senior police officials: SC
— India Today (@IndiaToday) May 16, 2013
The never ending misuse of IT Act 66-A
How would the senior officials react when pressure comes from the senior government officials? Definitely a space to be watched. In the entire last year, we have reported quite a few cases on how 66-A was misused –
1. Sanjay Chowdhary from Agra arrested for posting content about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
2. Ram Nayan Choudhury arrested for sharing cartoons against Mamata Banerjee on Facebook.
3. Arrest of Jadavpur University chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra on sharing cartoons again on Mamata Banerjee.
4. A businessman from Puducherry had been arrested for a tweet he made against Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son, Karti.
5. Mayank Mohan Sharma and KVJ Rao, two Air India cabin crew members were arrested by the cyber crime cell by the Mumbai department in May during this year for their activities performed on Facebook. The two had been accused of allegedly sharing lewd jokes about politicians.
6. Arrest of Assem Trivedi on his cartoon which mocked about the Indian democracy.
And, we can keep on adding some more stories to the list but if one looks deeper to these arrests made on the basis of social media activities, we see that interests lie somewhere else.
Meanwhile, Vindhayal has got a bail a day later after being remanded to judicial custody for 12 days. But will someone care to find out what the posts were about and why she was arrested when there was a PIL already pending in the court?
Will update the post if the story develops further. But rest assured this won’t be the last case surrounding the controversial IT Act 66-A.