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P Rajeeve’S motion in #Rajyasabha asking the amendment of #66A #ITact

P Rajeeve MP Rajya Sabha who has earlier moved the annulment montion in the is now moving a Private member motion today in the RS demanding the ammendment of IT act. The text of his speech is as follows:

1. SHRI P. RAJEEVE to move the following Resolution: –
“Having regard to the fact that –
(i) the Internet, an international network of interconnected computers that enables millions of people to communicate with one another incyberspace and to access vast amounts of information from around the world has provided an unprecedented platform for citizens to exercise their fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to create and innovate, to organize and influence, to speak and be heard;

(ii) in the last few months, a number of cases have come to light on how section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (herein after referred to as Act) is being arbitrarily used by the law enforcement agencies to arrest citizens in various parts of the country for posting comments on internet and social networking websites;

(iii) although the offense is bailable, the citizens are being detained without being granted bail and various countries have criticized these incidents as a slap on India‘s democracy;

(iv) the language and scope of legal terms used under section 66A of the Act are very wide and capable of distinctive varied interpretations with extremely wide parameters which have not been given any specific definitions under the law;

(v) clause (a) of section 66A of the Act uses expressions such as ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing character’ which are not defined anywhere and are subject to discretionary interpretations;

(vi) clause (b) of section 66 A prescribes an imprisonment term up to three years for information that can cause annoyance, inconvenience, insult, criminal intimidation, thereby bundling disparate terms and providing similar punishment for criminal intimidation and causing inconvenience;

(vii) clause (c) of the same section although intended to handle spam nowhere defines it and makes every kind of spam a criminally punishable act, which is also against the world-wide norms;

(viii) the offence under section 66A of the Act is cognizable, and has made it possible for police to arrest citizens at odd times for example arresting two 21 years old women in after sunset and a businessman at 5.00 a.m. in Puducherry;
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(ix) right to and expression is the foundation of all democratic countries and is essential for the proper functioning of the process of democracy;
(x) only very narrow and stringent limits have been set to permit legislative abridgment of the right of freedom of speech and expression;
(xi) the Supreme Court has given a broad dimension to Article 19 (1)(a) by laying down that freedom of speech under Article 19 (1)(a) not only guarantees freedom of speech and expression, it also ensures the right of the citizen to know and the right to receive information regarding matters of public concern;
(xii) in interpreting the Constitution we must keep in mind the social setting of the country so as to show a complete consciousness and deep awareness of the growing requirements of the society and the increasing needs of the nation and for this, the approach should be dynamic, pragmatic and elastic rather than static, pedantic or rigid;

(xiii) there are tremendous problems in the way section 66A of the amended Act has been drafted as this provision though inspired by the noble objectives of protecting reputations and preventing misuse of networks, has not been able to achieve its goals;

(xiv) the language of section 66A of the amended Act goes far beyond the reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech, as mandated under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India;

(xv) , being the world’s largest vibrant democracy, reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech need to be very strictly construed and section 66A of the amended Act, needs to be amended to make the Indian Cyber law in sync with the principles enshrined in the and also with the existing realities of social media and digital platforms today;

(xvi) it has been pointed out that section 66A of the Act has been based on United States Code, Title V (Sections 501 & 502) of Telecommunication Act titled Communications Decency Act (CDA), it must be brought to the notice of this House that the United States Supreme Court has held that the CDA’s “indecent transmission” and “patently offensive display” provisions which abridge “the freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment and thus unconstitutional, for instance, its use of the undefined terms like “indecent” and “patently offensive” provoke uncertainty among speakers about how the two standards relate to each other and just what they mean;

(xvii) the vagueness of such a content-based regulation, coupled with its increased deterrent effect as a criminal statute, raises Special First Amendment concerns because of its obvious chilling effect on free speech; and

(xviii) it has also been stated that section 66A of the Act has been based on United Kingdom’s section 127 of the Communication Act, 2003 which addresses improper use of public electronic communication network but the application of that section is restricted to a communication between two persons using public electronic communications network, i.e., mails written persistently to harass someone and not “tweets” or “status updates” that are available for public consumptions and which are not intended for harassment, also, the intention or mens rea element is crucial in it and further, the maximum punishment has been only up to six months in contrast to the three years mandated by Section 66A of the Act,

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this House urges upon the Government to –
(a) amend section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 in line with the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India;
(b) restrict the application of section 66A of the Act to communication between two persons;
(c) precisely define the offense covered by Section 66A of the Act;
(d) reduce the penalty imposed by section 66A of the Act; and
(e) make the offense under section 66A of the Act a noncognizable
offence.

 

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