While the Palghar police were quick to slap section 66A of Information Technology (IT) Act against Shaheen Dhada and her friend, they don’t know enough about the basics of the section, such as whether it is a cognisable offence or not.
A cognisable offence is a more serious nature, where the police are required to investigate the matter, as opposed to a non-cognisable offence, which needs a court nod for a probe to be conducted.
Srikant Pingle, senior inspector of Palghar police station, on Tuesday tried to play down the decision to use the section by saying it was bailable, meaning the accused could get bail at the police station.
When told that it was a non-bailable section, Pingle said: “The section is non-cognisable.” When this reporter told him it was also cognisable, Pingle stuck to his ground. However, former IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh confirmed that the section was both cognisable and non-bailable. “Any offence that attracts punishment of three years or more is a cognisable offence. Section 66A of IT Act attracts a punishment of three years.”
Cyber expert Vicky Shah, who has worked with the cyber police, said: “The police should consult the cyber cell in cases where the matter is grave.”
Vijay Mukhi, another cyber expert, said it is better if the IT Act is used only by the cyber police. “The IT Act is meant to fight serious cyber crimes. There are enough laws in the Indian Penal Code to deal with defamation, though IT Act is applied in cases where defamatory content is put up on Internet,” he said.
Lawyer Pankaj Bafna said: “Normally, the local police consult the cyber police or a lawyer before applying the sections.”
Pingle said they had not consulted the cyber cell. “The decision to invoke the Act was taken by us.”