Concerns that repealing Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act will result in an increase in misuse of the internet, have, so far, been unfounded.
But what is now worrying the cyber police is how to deal with complaints of slanderous, malicious or offensive posts.
In absence of any provision under the IT Act to deal with such complaints, the Mumbai police are now carefully going through the provisions under the IPC and special laws to bring online offenders to book.
A senior Mumbai police officer told HT that in the first week after Section 66A was scrapped, the cyber police station at the Bandra-Kurla-Complex (BKC) had at least eight complaints from people alleging victimisation over the social media or mobile messenger services.
“The complaints are mostly related to defamatory posts or content that was offensive in nature,” the officer said, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Earlier, the officer said, following investigation, such complaints would have led to registration of FIRs under Section 66A. “The section clearly talked about offensive and defamatory communication. And all these complaints fell under that category,” he added.
Now that the IT Act sections can do little to bring such culprits to book, the cyber police have started to refer the complaints to local police stations, urging action under relevant IPC sections.
“On our part, we have written to the respective [host] servers to delete the posts/contents from the page or posts,” the officer said, adding that under Section 66A, such offences were cognisable in nature, but under the IPC, most of them fell under the non-cognisable sections.
However, the number of complaints received by the cyber police station remains nearly the same. “This could be because people are now aware that such offences are no more covered under the IT Act and are not lodging complaints. Or net users have become disciplined and are practising self-restraint,” the officer said.
When contacted, Mumbai police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said the police will continue to take action against offenders under the alternative legal provisions for crimes earlier falling under Section 66 A. “For instance, posts that are vulgar or depict women in a derogatory manner will invite action under special acts such as the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986,” he said.