offences under Section 66A would be attracted only for cyber crimes and not offences which had no relation to freedom of speech
Hyderabad: Over 250 complaints were registered in Hyderabad in 2014 under Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, according to officials from the city’s Cyber Crime police station. There were no convictions in 2014 as per CCPS data. If convicted, the punishment defined under Section 66A of the Act is a maximum of three years in jail and a fine. "Most of the complaints are related to offensive messages sent on Facebook or any other source, offensive posts or images or videos on Facebook, and those that might have caused embarrassment to a person, "said CCPS assistant commissioner of police B. Anuradha.
The department has no mechanism to identify and pull down hate pages on its own. Such action is taken up only when a complaint is registered. Officials said if it is a case of an offensive message over the phone or e-mail, a complaint can be registered immediately as the person who sent it can be traced by the department. But cases related to Facebook, the social networking site rejected the department’s requests to provide the IP address of the person who made the offensive post or comment.
"Although the Facebook management deletes a post when requested, it does not provide the IP address saying it might be treated as offensive according to Indian law, but according to their law it was not offensive," said Ms Anuradha.She said the department was asked to approach for assistance under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. To follow up such cases, the police needs permission from the ministry of home affairs.
Commenting on the issue of what can be classified as offensive, she said, "There is no clear definition the police can rely only on their discretion while registering a case." "After an FIR is registered, if the magistrate feels the allegations are valid, he will initiate a trial and judgment is passed as per provisions under Section 66A. The discretion lies with judge," said High Court lawyer P. Subhash. Speaking on freedom of speech, he said, "I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t offend someone. My right to freedom of expression ends when the rights of the other person begin."
80 per cent complaints by women, most trivial: Officials
Nearly 80 per cent of the complaints in Hyderabad under Section 66A of Information and Technology Act are being lodged by women, say officials from the city’s Cyber Crime police station. Officials say most of the complaints are about trivial issues.
"A woman, annoyed with her ex-boy-friend messaging her, complained that the messages were offending. The messages was ‘Hi. How are you?’. Such messages cannot be treated as offending," said a CCPS inspector."Things which don’t need to be addressed by the police often come to us. Misuse of the act by complainants can’t be ruled out," said assistant commissioner of police of CCPS B. Anuradha.