It was important, the minister said, to strike a balance between freedom of speech and expression, and interests of the individual. “There are restrictions... How the restrictions are to be couched is to be decided. But I am sure we will be able to do it,” he said.
Sibal stressed the need to educate the police on the law.
“That problem is there... the cops are not aware of many laws,” he said. “But in a mature democracy, as we grow, officials get sensitised. The (instances of) abuse come(s) down. Those affected by the abuse will ask questions of those abusing the law. I am sure instances like the recent one (in Maharashtra) where there is an outcry against the misuse, people also get sensitised, as do the officials.”
Sibal, who is also a renowned lawyer, said that the two women in Palghar — Shaheen Dhada, who posted that the shutdown after Thackeray’s death was not necessary, and Rinu Srinivas, who ‘liked’ the post — should not have been arrested.
“The girls should not have been arrested. About that there is no doubt,” he said. “But I don’t agree with those who say that since the act is liable to being misused, it is unconstitutional and hence should be scrapped. By this logic, why don’t we do away with provisions in other laws, particularly the Indian Penal Code, that are routinely misused?”
Asked to elaborate, he said: “Let’s look at Section 66A (of IT Act). It says ‘any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character...’ What does this mean? Anything offensive can’t be acted upon. It has to be ‘grossly offensive’. Words like ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing character’ can’t be defined... (Similarly,) in the constitution, you can’t define what is ‘public interest’, ‘decency’ or ‘morality’. You can’t define ‘reasonable’. But you have these in the constitution... In the IPC, you have the term ‘mischief’. Who is to interpret mischief?... The law is not bad, (but) the implementation may be faulty. We need to rectify that.”
The minister said there