Why Sec 66A is redundant given existing laws curbing speech

I am not sure why, but every CA student has to study the Information Technology Act, before he gets his degree. During this, I had read the IT Act, and I remember being flummoxed by some of the provisions, some other than Section 66A too. I will try to put out some of the dangerous stuff in the IT Act:

66 A Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc. ( Introduced vide ITAA 2008)

Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-

a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

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b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,

 

c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages (Inserted vide ITAA 2008) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two three years and with fine.

The biggest problem here is highlighted in bold. The IT Act nowhere defines what “Grossly Offensive” or “has Menacing Character” means. Twitter trolling can be Menacing? by some definitions yes. This is why Sec 66A has been the most abused and misused. Anyone with a grouse against anyone, and a co-operative cop, can get anybody arrested.

The solution here is either remove the words and replace them with something specific, or define what “Grossly Offensive” or “has Menacing Character” means, or add a proviso which states that until a judge gives a judgement that the material involved is prima facie  “Grossly Offensive” or ” has Menacing Character”, arrest cannot be made. So in fact the outrage should be “Section 66A should be amended” rather than “Section 66A must go”, but when has Twitter Outrage made sense?

Now some more devilish sections which can put you in a soup:

1. 67 Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form (Amended vide ITAA 2008)

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.

Simple reading: THE MMS’s YOU HAVE BEEN SHARING ON WHATSAPP CAN LAND YOU IN JAIL FOR 3 YEARS, If this section is implemented

2. 67 A Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form (Inserted vide ITAA 2008)

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form any material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.

Exception: This section and section 67 does not extend to any book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation or figure in electronic form-

(i) the publication of which is proved to be justified as being for the public good on the ground that such book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation or figure is in the interest of science,literature,art,or learning or other objects of general concern; or

(ii) which is kept or used bona fide for religious purposes

Simple Reading: SEND STUFF CONTAINING SEXUAL ACTS AND YOU CAN GET JAILED FOR UPTO 5 YEARS.

The best part about this section is, the Exception, which allows you to send sexually explicit material used “bon fide for RELIGIOUS purposes”.


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