Section 66A: No parallel between Narendra Modi’s NDA and UPA stands on IT law, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

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New Delhi | Updated: March 25, 2015 10:15:44 AM

The NDA government, which had defended the constitutional validity of Section 66(A) of IT Act...

Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which had defended the constitutional validity of Section 66(A) of IT Act, on Tuesday said there can be no parallel between its stand and that of the previous UPA regime which tried to make it “an instrument to curb dissent, satire and anything else which did not suit it”.

Reacting to the Supreme Court judgement striking down Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said if the security establishment feels there is need to consider certain aspects in the light of the order, these shall be considered in a proper structured way with due safeguards so that the constitutional rights are not frustrated.

“There can be no parallel of our stand on this matter with that of the previous UPA regime. We have in writing confirmed that we stand for freedom of speech and expression, while the previous UPA government tried to make this law an instrument to curb dissent, satire and anything else which did not suit it,” he told reporters.

The Minister said the government welcomes SC decision and when the UPA government came out with “draconian” provisions under 66(A), the BJP had opposed it and said that “66 is unacceptable in current form”.

Prasad said after detailed discussions, the government had filed an affidavit before the SC making its stand clear that it respects the freedom of speech and expression.

“Central Government encourages beneficial use of cyber space and the Act only seeks to regulate the use of cyber space which would fall within any of or all categories stipulated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India,” the affidavit had said.

It added the penal provisions of the Act can never be interpreted so as to take within its sweep political debate, any form of honest dissent, decent humour, political satire etc.

The government said it had conveyed a request to the court that government is willing to come out with additional, more stringent guidelines so as to prevent abuse of Section 66A of the Act which allows arrest of a person for posting allegedly “offensive” content on websites.

Asked how the government would ensure regulation in the light of the SC judgement, Prasad “if something is really offensive of national security needs surely there is a process and law”.  The court has laid down guidelines under Sec 79, he added.

“I am a supporter of self-regulation by both–those who post and those who allow that platform to be posted,” the minister said.

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