Sunday, November 25, 2012

Freedom of Expression on Face Book and its Aftermath....

Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora on Tuesday slammed the police for “acting in haste” by arresting two young girls for their Facebook post questioning shutdown of the city for Bal Thackeray‘s funeral and called for checks to prevent misuse of the IT Act.

“Question isn’t about amending 66A of the IT (Information Technology) Act, it’s about preventing misuse by the police, who clearly acted in haste and applied wrong sections of IPC & IT Act,” Deora wrote on social networking Website Twitter.

Police had on November 18 arrested 21-year-old Shaheen Dhada under section 66A of IT Act and section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) for posting a message on Facebook questioning the shutdown in the city for Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray’s funeral.
Firstpost said - It is hard to see how Shaheen Dhada violated the two sections of the law under which she has been charged – Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (“outraging religous feelings of any class”) or even the draconian Section 66A of the IT Act (“sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.”) – with her contemplative post, or what crimes Renu Srinivasan committed in merely ‘liking’ the post.
The message posted by Shaheen read: “With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.

Now consider this - 

Mumbaites shutting down their shops and offices and sitting at home fearing violence is one thing, and more than 20 Lakh people actually marching in the funeral procession is another. 

Any political party cant bring 20 lakh people for a funeral procession, the economics is just not workable. So by that yardstick late Thackeray had earned public respect and support, and its but natural for his supporters to react or overreact when someone publishes a statement, even before the deceased's funeral pyre had not even stopped burning.
IPC Section 297 - Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or.....with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded,.... or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies,....
The statement, which is the subject herein, is posted in the course of the funeral procession, and so section 297 IPC is applicable. And how would we expect the police to handle the situation, when the whole City is on its nerves; one wrong step and everything will fall down. We should admire how the situation in its totality was handled by the Mumbai Police. 

And again The Indian Constitution protects freedom of speech as a facet of fundamental rights under Article 19, subject to reasonable restrictions, including decency and defamation. What becomes critical therefore is balance: The fine equilibrium required between protecting freedom of speech, fair comment and criticism (including investigative journalism and whistleblower action) on the one hand and transgression into malicious defamation of a person for oblique or political purposes on the other.

IT Act 2002 Section 66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc..- 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
(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 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

In the case of Mr. Srinivasan he had tweeted that “karthick chidambaram had amassed more wealth than vadra” and the police arrested him on the basis of an e-mail complaint lodged by Mr. Karti.
The same IT act was used to arrest a person in Pondicherry who supposedly posted comments against Karthi Chidambaram. 
What was the media doing then ?

..... it is doubly perverse for Kapil Sibal to claim in all innocence that he is “deeply saddened” by the arrest of the two young women and to insinuate that the IT Act, which he was instrumental in passing, was being misused on grounds of improper implementation.
The fact of it is that the IT Act that he fathered, and particularly the notorious Section 66A, was deliberately worded to give maximum potential for mischief. There have been far too many egregious instances of its misuse by discredited governments and politicians for Sibal to claim that these are random incidents of misuse of the law. Just last month, Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti had a Puducherry businessmen and anti-corruption activist hauled up by the police for a Twitter post in which the businessman alleged that Karti had “amassed more wealth” than Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law. 

No comments: