No arrests for Facebook, twitter posts: Modi govt to SC
New Delhi: Amid a spurt in arrests for “objectionable” social media posts, the Narendra Modi government, in a significant statement on Tuesday, told the Supreme Court that posting messages on Facebook or Twitter relating to freedom of expression will not be seen as an offence and no arrests will be made for postings in social media.The government admitted that there were certain “aberrations amounting to abuse” of Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act.
The court is hearing a bunch of PILs which challenged the constitutional validity of the section under the IT Act which allowed arrests for “annoying, inconvenient and dangerous messages” on social media, including ones involving freedom of expression.
It is to be noted that the court had earlier warned the Centre that it would make inoperative certain controversial provisions of the IT Act often invoked by authorities to muzzle free speech on social media, if it failed to clarify its stand during the hearing.
“Of course we have kept the rules under the IT Act a bit flexible in view of the kind of offences being committed online like spread of hate and various other cyber crimes.
Everyday new technology is coming. There are criminals using the sites intending various offences. However, the Union government does not wish to curb freedom of expression. Exercising one’s freedom of speech won’t be an offence, but this law applies to cyber crimes,” Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar.
Mehta said a panel has been set up to suggest ways of safeguarding freedom of speech and preventing misuse of the law by authorities.
One of the petitions referred to an April 2012 incident, when a chemistry professor from Jadavpur University in West Bengal, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was arrested for posting a cartoon concerning Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on networking sites.
He also referred to the arrest of businessman Ravi Srinivasan in October 2012 by the Puducherry police for having made allegations on Twitter against Karti Chidambaram of the Congress, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, as well as the May 2012 arrests of two Air India employees in Mumbai for posting content on Facebook against some politicians.