375 cases registered in Maharashtra for offensive messages online

Now-scrapped Section 66A provision was most widely used in UP, Karnataka.

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Mumbai | Published: December 20, 2015 12:35 am

Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka top the list of states where the maximum cases were filed under Section 66A, the section that was struck down from the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000. The section was widely used by police to book people deemed to have sent “offensive” messages through computer or devices like mobile phone or tablets.

There was vagueness in the law about what was offensive and the Supreme Court had in march struck down the section, deeming it unconstitutional claiming it hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression.

The section was applied nearly 4,192 times in the country in which 1,125 individuals were chargesheeted, but only 42 convicted. The section was used the most in Uttar Pradesh with 898 cases registered of which 210 individuals were chargesheeted. It is followed by Karnataka where 603 cases were registered followed by Assam (377), Maharashtra (375) and Telangana (352).

Data pertaining to cases filed under this section were recently made public by the Ministry of Communications and Technology in the Lok Sabha earlier this week.

With the Supreme Court striking down provisions of the section, the Centre seems to be increasingly using Section 69A of the IT Act, which allows the government to issue directions for blocking, for public access, any information through any computer resource. This provision is used to ban objectionable content whenever there are requests. They are removed by security agencies or upon court orders.
Objectionable information needs to be against the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign States or maintaining public order or preventing incitement. This section shows a quantum increase due the SC verdict. Till November this year, the provision was used to block 492 URLs compared to a measly 10 URLs in 2014.

A total of 533, 432 and 352 URLs of social media websites were blocked in compliance with directions of the competent courts of India in 2013, 2014 and 2015 till November.

Presently, there is no institutional monitoring mechanism for social networking sites.

At present, law enforcement and security agencies make searches on Internet on specific case to case basis.

Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) within the National Media Centre in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting tracks current trends on social media and monitors public interface on the social media network.

“Most networking sites and their servers are located abroad. In most cases, such accounts were successfully disabled in association with social networking sites having their offices in India. However, the success rate is low in disabling accounts and getting information from social networking sites having offices abroad,” Communications and Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Lok Sabha.

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