India govt to relook controversial IT Act

The Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee will meet Thursday to discuss objections from the public regarding certain sections of the law, and to issue interim guidelines to government agencies.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

India's Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee (CRAC) wil meet on Thursday to discuss the Information Technology (IT) Act as a result of public objections, and it will issue interim guidelines to state governments to prevent officials from abusing the law.

In a report by The Hindu Thursday, the CRAC will specifically discuss Section 70 of the IT Act and the Intermediary Guidelines 2011 as well as the controversial Section 66, which punishes those who "send offensive messages through communication services'.

Section 66 was thrust into the spotlight after a 21-year-old girl based in the outskirts of Mumbai, Shaheen Dhandha, was arrested by the Maharashtra police for updating her Facebook profile with information about the shutdown of the city following the demise of Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray. A 20-year-old girl who "Liked" her status was also arrested.

To address the possible over-reach of state power, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told The Hindu the CRAC discussion was "to take key objections on board and issue interim guidelines and safeguards to state governments on what circumstances power should be exercised in order to create an element of protection for citizens".

He added creating provisos to the IT Act would provide more immediate relief than to amend the law itself.

"Since amending the Act will be a tedious processs that will go well into the Budget Session of parliament, we will ensure only people significantly high up in the [state] hierarchy can exercise these powers as an interim safeguard to prevent over-reach and violation of India's constitutional provisions," Sibal stated.

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