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Govt modifies Sec 66 of IT Act, only senior officers to probe complaints

PTI     November 29, 2012
No less than a police officer of a rank of DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) will be allowed to permit registration of a case under Section 66 of the IT Act, following uproar over recent arrests under the controversial law.

In the case of metropolitan cities, such an approval would have to come at the level of Inspector General of Police.

The guidelines are being issued after controversial arrests by Mumbai police in west India under Section 66 (A) of IT Act that deals with spreading hatred through electronic messages.

The cases against two teenage girls who had objected to a bandh-like situation in Mumbai after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's death and were arrested, are now being dropped.

"... the concerned police officer or police station may not register any complaints (under Section 66 (A))unless he has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below the DCP rank in urban and rural areas and IG level in metros," a top source said.

On Wednesday, a 19-year-old boy was detained in Thane district on suspicion of posting an "objectionable" Facebook comment against MNS chief Raj Thackeray but later let off.

Currently, a police station in-charge or an inspector can register a case under the said provision.

Section 66 (A), which is a bailable offence and provides for a jail term of up to three years, makes it an offence to send, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any information which is grossly offensive, menacing, causes annoyance or hatred.

The source expressed confidence that such instances can be avoided once the new guidelines were put in place.

"There are procedural difficulties faced... we are going to circulate to all state governments as guidelines with regard to registering any complaints under Section 66 (A)," he said.

The IT Act is not being amended, an official clarified, adding that powers vest only with Parliament and what the government intends to do is only to issue operational guidelines.

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