IT act should not be used without higher approval: Sibal

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 08:50 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) The government is planning to send advisories to state governments to ensure that arrests under the IT Act should not be made without approval from higher authorities, Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said here Friday.

"We will soon be sending advisories to state government that inspector, or sub-inspector level officers should not use section 66(A) of the IT act without any order from senior level officers," Sibal said replying supplementaries during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.

The section 66(A) of IT Act has provision for punishment for sending offensive messages via electronic mail that is "grossly offensive or is menacing", "any false information causing annoyance, insult, danger", "causing inconvenience", and "deceiving or misleading recipient".

The guilty can face up to three years in jail and a penalty.

There was an uproar over the Act recently when two girls in Thane near Mumbai were arrested for a Facebook post questioning virtual shut down in the city following Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackrey's death. The girls were released later.

Few days after that, a 19-year-old boy was questioned by the police in Palghar of Maharashtra over an alleged Facebook post against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.

"It is my personal opinion and the stand of government that the arrest was not right. There is freedom of expression which is a fundamental right," Sibal said.

"So we are also urging state governments to educate the implementing agencies over use of the provisions of the IT Act," he added.

BJP member Jai Prakash Narayan Singh then asked the minister if any action will be taken against Arvind Kejriwal and his team for the offensive posts on social networking sites against politicians and parliament.

"Under the IPC (Indian Penal Code), if someone puts wrong allegations against any one, a defamation suit can be filed. But using IT Act will be playing with democracy because all have the freedom of expression," he said.

More from Sify: