Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal ruled out the scrapping of the controversial 66A (IT) Act under which two Palghar girls were recently arrested in Maharashtra.
“It is not Sibal’s law. It was passed by Parliament,” he told HT, adding, “The law has been misused a few times but don’t forget the thousands of victims who are stalked, abused and threatened.”
He refused to spell out the exact changes they were contemplating to 66A since Parliament was in session but did say that they were looking at the possibility of senior officers of the rank of an IG putting their approval to any action under the controversial provision.
Asked if political pressure can be brought to bear even on senior officers, as was the case when an India Against Corruption member was arrested in Puducherry after a complaint from Karti Chidambaram, Sibal said, “We are extremely concerned about freedom of speech and are concerned about the overreach by enforcement authorities.”
The minister pointed to the suspension of two cops in Maharashtra and said, “If and when fresh guidelines are issued and higher authorities made responsible for the application of 66A, they will likely think twice.”
Pointing out that the internet is still in transition mode, Sibal argued against the scrapping of 66 A, saying, “We have to find a fine balance. Let’s not forget that people were killed in Kokrajhar. The solution does not lie in doing away with the law but in rationalising the law and its application.”
Asked how the higher authorities would define and interpret internet posts that fall under “menacing character”, Sibal countered, “How do you describe decency and morality, or justice, reasonabless and mischief?”
UK and US have the exact same ‘menacing character’ description, Sibal pointed out, emphasising that the law was in place even if its application had not been satisfactory.