No arrest for online posts without senior cop’s nod: SC

Endorses Centre's advisory; refuses blanket ban on arrest

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: May 17, 2013 1:53 am

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed that any person allegedly posting objectionable comments on social networking sites will not be arrested by the police without the permission of senior officers.

Taking up a plea filed a by law student seeking directions to the authorities not to take action against anybody for posting allegedly objectionable comments during the pendency of a case before the apex court pertaining to constitutional validity of Section 66A of the IT Act,the Bench of justices B S Chauhan and Dipak Misra ordered,“We direct the state governments to ensure compliance with the guidelines (issued by Centre) before making any arrest.”

Refusing to pass an interim order for blanket ban on the arrest of a person for making objectionable comments on websites,the Bench said the state governments must ensure strict compliance of Centre’s January 9 advisory,issued following a public outrage over people being arrested for making comments or liking posts on Facebook. The advisory says that a person should not be arrested without taking permission from police officials of the rank of IGP or DCP or SP. After Thursday’s order,the advisory issued by the Centre becomes mandatory for the state governments.

The Bench said that it could not restrain states from making any such arrest as operation of Section 66A had not been stayed and the apex court is still examining its constitutional validity.

This Section states that any person who sends,by means of a computer resource or communication device,any information that was grossly offensive or has a menacing character could be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of three years,besides imposition of appropriate fine.

On May 12,Jaya Vindhyala,Andhra Pradesh general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties,was arrested under Section 66A for “objectionable” post about Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah and MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan.

On November 30,2012,the apex court had sought response from the Central government on the amendment and misuse of section 66A of Information Technology Act and had also directed the Maharashtra government to explain the circumstances under which two women — Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — were arrested in Palghar in Thane district of Maharashtra after one of them posted a comment against the shut down in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it.

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