Amending IT act including 66A

The Free Software Movement of India notes with concern the proposal of the Union Government to bring back (albeit in a different form) the widely misused Section 66A of the IT Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in March 2015.

The government had entrusted a group of officials from the Home Ministry and the security agencies to re-write the 66A after it was struck down. A draft of the revised 66A is now circulating, whose main purpose seems to be replicate in the IT Act what is already in the Indian Penal Code, e.g., 153 A, as well as expand its scope.

The original purpose of 66A was to prevent spam. Instead it became an omnibus detailing of “crimes”, many of which are already addressed elsewhere. Free Software Movement of India believes that the 66A should not be brought back in a different form with a different wording, giving the police more powers than it already has. The existing laws are adequate to deal with the issues that the police are claiming that the revised 66A will deal with. We believe that off-line rights and on-line rights should be same and do not think that there should be two sets of definitions for the same offenses, merely because they occur off-line or on-line.

Free Software Movement of India was in the forefront of protests against this odious law with its member organisations conducting public meetings, rallies, protests and educating tens of thousands of internet users about the pitfalls of this provision. The Supreme Court's 2015 judgment spoke for these innumerable Indians, both young and old who are benefiting from the liberatory potential of the internet.