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Govt may restore controversial law under which people can be jailed for offensive online posts

VCCircle_MEA_26Government is working on restoring with “suitable modifications” the controversial section 66A of IT Act which provided for arrest of people for posting offensive content online and was struck down by the Supreme Court in March.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a committee to examine the implications of the apex court judgement and “suggest restoring of 66A of Information Technology Act 2000 with suitable modifications and safeguards to make it fully compatible with constitutional provisions”, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed Parliament today.

The committee has been mandated by MHA to suggest alternate legal measures so as to avoid the possible misuse of social media in the interest of National Security and maintenance of public order.

“Also, an Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of TK Vishwanathan, former Secretary, Law Commission and Secretary General Lok Sabha has been set up by MHA to study the Supreme Court judgement on section 66A of IT Act and recommend a road map with measures and amendments to the present laws for consideration of the Government,” Prasad said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

The apex court had called section 66A of the IT Act “unconstitutional”, saying it has a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech and expression.

Many people have been arrested for posting cartoons of politicians or criticising them when the act was in force.

The apex court held that the expressions used in section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, which had been used by various administrations against inconvenient posts in the cyber space, are “completely open-ended and undefined”.

The apex court had rejected appeal to strike down section 69A of IT Act that gives the government power to block websites or any information that can be accessed through any computer in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of nation and so on.

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