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Sibal admits to IT Act misuse
- Centre rules out dilution of law

New Delhi, Dec. 14 (PTI): The Centre today conceded that that the IT Act was being misused but ruled out a dilution or “emasculation” of the law, prompting the Opposition to allege “legislative terrorism”.

The Centre said it would soon issue an advisory to states to check the practice as members in the Rajya Sabha voiced concern in the backdrop recent arrests over certain postings on social networking sites.

“As per our assessment, Section 66A of IT Act is being misused at several places. This is happening in many states, it's not limited to only one state,” telecom and IT minister Kapil Sibal said in the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He said the government was planning an advisory under which a junior police officer in the rank of sub-inspector cannot arrest anybody till approval from a “certain high level”.

“We are thinking on this and hopefully soon we will issue the advisory,” said Sibal. As per the amended guidelines, the approval of a DCP level officer will be required to Section 66A of IT Act. He also said the misuse of the Section was not rampant.

“I have with me about five instances. Now, five instances cannot suggest such a rampant misuse in a population of 1.2 billion. But, that does not mean that there is no misuse. There has been misuse,” he said.

Sibal also said that in his opinion as well as of the government, the use of Section 66A was not proper in the Mumbai case.

There has been uproar after two girls were arrested in Mumbai in November over a Facebook post criticising the bandh like situation in Mumbai after Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death.

Section 66A provides for punishment up to three years for sending via electronic mail messages “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

The controversial provision later came under criticism in the Upper House in the post-lunch sitting when P. Rajeeve (the CPM) through a private member’s resolution said the “draconian” section needed to be amended as it could be misused in future.

Intervening, Sibal said: “There is no question of dilution (of the act). We do not believe in emasculating the act”.

Rajeeve said the Centre was planning to issue guidelines to states against the misuse of the law but it would not be of much help and only an amendment in it can ensure that such things are not repeated.

Gyanprakash Pilania (the BJP) said under the section, even an “April Fool joke” on the social networking sites can land a person in jail for causing annoyance.

He said telecom minister Kapil Sibal does not find any fault with the act but the Opposition feels there is one.

Condemning police action against the two girls in Palghar, Santaram Naik (the Congress) noted such an incident does not prove the point that the Act has to be amended.

Supporting the resolution, Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Ind) said it was incumbent upon parliamentarians to seek corrections as “review of the act is absolutely necessary”.

M. Rama Jois (the BJP) said the IT Act was passed in a “hurry” and now the government is “worrying leisurely... This is nothing but legislative terrorism”.

Narendra Kumar Kashyap (the BSP), Basavaraja Patil (the BJP) and Rama Chandra Kuntia (the Congress) were among others who participated in the discussion.