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Thousands go online against 66A

by Prasad Krishna last modified Nov 30, 2012 06:40 AM
An online petition aimed at amending section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act and re-examining internet laws has garnered 3,000 signatures since it began on Tuesday — two days before Kapil Sibal, telecom and IT minister, chairs a meeting with the cyber regulation advisory committee.

This article by Apoorva Dutt was published in DNA on November 29, 2012. Pranesh Prakash is quoted.


An online petition aimed at amending section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act and re-examining internet laws has garnered 3,000 signatures since it began on Tuesday — two days before Kapil Sibal, telecom and IT minister, chairs a meeting with the cyber regulation advisory committee.

The petition, anchored on Change.org, a platform for social initiatives, was started by Bangalore-based advocate Gautam John after two girls were arrested for their Facebook post on imposing a bandh in the city on the day Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was cremated. Following their arrests, Shaheen Dhada has deleted her Facebook account while her friend Rini Srinivasan who merely liked the post has opened a new account on the social networking site. However, she has vowed to refrain from making political statements.

John is blunt about the legislative effect an online petition can have. l Turn to p8.

“Honestly, I don’t believe that a petition can change laws, but it gives concerned citizens a platform for documenting their concern in such troubling scenarios. To some extent, this sort of petition can represent a civil society’s point of view. No more can a government authority say ‘only NGOs care about an issue’. Now they know – thousands of ordinary people care,” John said.

Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre For Internet and Society in Bangalore, points out the flaws in section 66A that have been exploited in cases like the Palghar incident. “Section 66A is very broadly-worded and the punishment (three years imprisonment) is excessive,” he said. “The law was borrowed – that too badly – from a British law. There are many a things greatly flawed in this unconstitutional provision, from the disproportionality of the punishment to the non-existence of the crime. The 2008 amendment to the IT Act was one of eight laws passed in 15 minutes without any debate in the winter session of Parliament.”

The petition also aims to organise a meeting of the civil society stakeholders to look into these concerns. A similar meeting was scheduled to be held in August, but it did not take place.

Sudarshan Balachandran of Change.org is the lead campaigner and organiser of the petition. He hopes to hand over a copy of the petition to Sibal during the meeting on Thursday. “Sibal has gone on record to say that they will examine the law, and if they feel it doesn’t work, it will be junked. So I am hopeful,” said Balachandran.

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