Facebook effect: Govt says IT Act being misused, to issue 'advisory'

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Agreeing that a section of the IT Act was being misused, the government today said it will soon issue an advisory to states to check the practice as members in Rajya Sabha voiced concern in the backdrop recent arrests over certain postings on social networking sites, especially the arrest of 2 girls over a Facebook post.

"As per our assessment, Section 66A of IT Act is being misused at several places. This is happening in many states, it's not limited to only one state," Telecom and IT Minister Kapil Sibal said in the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He said the government was planning an advisory under which a junior police officer in the of rank of Sub-Inspector cannot arrest anybody till approval from a "certain high level".

"We are thinking on this and hopefully soon we will issue the advisory," said Sibal.

As per the amended guidelines, the approval of a DCP level officer will be required to Section 66A of IT Act.

He also said the misuse of the Section was not rampant. "I have with me about five instances. Now, five instances cannot suggest such a rampant misuse in a population of 1.2 billion. But, that does not mean that there is no misuse. There has been misuse," he said.

Sibal also said that in his opinion as well as of the government, the use of Section 66A was not proper in the Mumbai case.

There has been uproar after two girls were arrested in Mumbai in November over a Facebook post criticising the bandh like situation in Mumbai after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death.

Section 66A provides for punishment up to three years for sending via electronic mail messages 'grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character'.

The controversial provision later came under criticism in the Upper House in the post-lunch sitting when P Rajeeve (CPI-M) through a Private Member's Resolution said the "draconian" section needed to be amended as it could be misused in future.

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