SC admits PIL against IT Act, govt amends arrest norms

FP

The Centre issued new guidelines for arrests under a controversial provision of the IT Act even as the Supreme Court Thursday questioned the reaction of the state and the "might" of the police in the arrest of two Maharashtra women for a Facebook post. Such incidents "outraged the conscience" of many citizens, the apex court said.

The new guidelines say approval from a police officer of IGP rank in metros and DCP rank in other areas will have to be sought before registering complaints under section 66A of the Act. Section 66A provides for a jail term of up to three years, and a case under it can be registered by a police station in-charge or an inspector-rank officer.

The revised guidelines say "the concerned police officer or police station may not register any complaints unless he or it has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below DCP rank in urban and rural areas and IG level in metros", a source said. However, the source said there were some "procedural difficulties", and the Centre would soon circulate the new guidelines to all state governments.

In the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, while agreeing to admit the PIL by a law student from Delhi seeking that Section 66A be declared unconstitutional, said the matter required their "consideration", and asked for the assistance of Attorney General G E Vahanvati to decide the legal issues involved.

"When were these girls arrested? As per media reports, they were arrested after sunset? Might of the police, it seems, got activated only after sunset," the bench said after senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi mentioned the matter and called for its immediate intervention. He cited the arrest of two girls for questioning on Facebook, Mumbai being shut down after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's death.

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