With the Supreme Court having struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, communication and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was in favour of coming up with fresh guidelines on the issue.
Prasad told HT, “I was always in favour of re-visiting it and also requested the court through the ASG (Additional Solicitor General).”
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 and its clause 2 clarifies that reasonable restrictions can be put on the exercise of the right in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to offence.
Prasad added that the government fully respected the freedom of speech and expression. “We are very fond of communication and articulation of views on social media, particularly by young friends, which has remarkably strengthened public discourse,” the IT minister said.
Now, a high-level committee, headed by special secretary (internal security) in the home ministry, Ashok Prasad, will analyse how to deal with national security issues and what steps can be taken to accommodate all the concerns in the absence of Section 66A. The committee will have representation from the Intelligence Bureau, the NIA and the Delhi police. It will submit its report within a month.
Sources said words like ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing’ were being wrongly interpreted by law enforcement agencies but some provision is required to check the material that may endanger national security like the ISIS propaganda on the Internet.