Centre for Internet & Society

The review seeks to bring the Act in line with international human rights law standards on freedom of expression.

This article by Nirmalya Behera was published in the Business Standard on November 28, 2012.

Joining in the row over arrest of two girls in Maharastra for Facebook comments, the human rights group, Amnesty International, has called for review of the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

In a letter to Kapil Sibal, Union minister for Communications and Information Technology, the London based human right watchdog has asked for reviewing the section and bringing it in line with international human rights law standards on freedom of expression.

The human rights group and the Centre for Internet and Society believe that Section 66A, which was amended in 2008, is not in line with the constitution of India and internationally accepted standards on freedom of expression. They termed the section as imprecise and over board.

Amnesty has also called for laying down clear and comprehensive explanations of the restrictions on free speech either in the IT act or in the rules in order to prevent the abuse of the provision by various state law enforcement officials and frame the explanations after consulting it with the public.

“The Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs without fear, or interference. But under Section 66A, even a peaceful posting could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years”, it said in its letter.

It may be noted that two girls- Shaheen Dhada and her friend Renu Srinivasan were arrested on November 19, after Dhada had lamented in a Facebook post about the shutdown in Mumbai due to Bal Thackeray's funeral and were later released on bail.