High-level officers alone can act under Sec 66A of IT Act

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 30 2012, 09:39am hrs
Officers no less than the rank of inspector general (IG) of police and deputy commissioner of police (DCP) will now be eligible to permit registration of a case under Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, which provides for punishment of imprisonment up to three years and fine for sending spam or unsolicited e-mail messages through computer resource or communication device.

In the case of metropolitan cities, such an approval would have to come at the level of IG, police, while in non-metros, officers at the level of DCP and above would have this authority. Moreover, the intermediaries will have to respond in 36 hours, said an industry representative who attended the first meeting of the government-appointed Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

The committee discussed the controversial Section 66 A, which provides for imprisonment for sending information that is 'menacing in character', used to cause 'inconvenience', 'hatred' and 'annoyance'. Currently, a police station in-charge or an inspector can register a case under the provision.

Section 66 A is a bailable offence and provides for a jail term of up to three years.

It was a positive meeting and the government assured us that there would be frequent meetings in 3-4 months, said another official from an industry association, adding that the IT Act is not being amended and that powers vest only with Parliament and what the government intends to do is only to issue operational guidelines.

The 20-member panel, headed by IT and communications minister Kapil Sibal, discussed cases like those of Mamata Banerjee getting a professor arrested for 'maligning' her over a cartoon on the Internet, Karti Chidambaram's complaint that an industrialist posted 'offensive' posts against him on Twitter and the latest case of two girls commenting on Bal Thackeray's demise.

Industry concerns on Internet governance addressed

The telecom industry's demand that the government should not govern Internet content and barriers to free access to the Internet be removed seem to have have been addressed in the wake of New Delhi maintaining that the Internet should not be part of International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).

The industry had three concerns which it raised with the government: the Internet being part of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), government's control over online content and barriers to free access to the Internet.

According to sources, the communications and information technology ministry now plans to develop an internal system to monitor content for any potential threat to national security and infrastructure. Telecom will be part of the ITU, but Internet won't be.

We wanted abuse to be checked without any curb on freedom of speech and expression. We do not want the ITU to take control of this. All this has been addressed by the government, said an industry representative who attended the open house of the government seeking stakeholders' comments in writing after some of them objected to the language used in certain clauses of the draft prepared by the government for discussion at the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 in Dubai next week.

We were given equal opportunity and the ministry responded to our concerns positively. They are considering all the points we raised, said Rajesh Chharia, president, Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI).