THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : As protests mount over moral policing in the state, online surveillance on trolls against political and sectarian kingpins are now common, further leading to bullying and indictment of the netizens using laws that are condemned by legal experts.
Internet policing nowadays increasingly leads to law enforcement agencies victimising net users by charging laws such as Section 66 (A) of the IT Act, for triggering trolls on social media.
After the Salman episode in the state capital, state police charged National Secular Congress organising secretary M A Jaleel under Section 66 A, for sharing trolls on Facebook which allegedly displayed the double standards of a right wing Muslim party.
“I am receiving threats through internet and telephone. I filed a complaint with the Director General of Police,” Jaleel said.
Police sources cited a recent incident in which a DYFI activist was nabbed in Anchal for his alleged obscene remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The complainant was the member of a right wing Hindu group. Anchal Police registered an FIR against the DYFI activist under Section 153 A of the IPC and Sections 67 and 66 A of IT Act.
However, eminent lawyers and police officers concede that Section 66 A of the IPC could be misused.
“Local police are often unaware of the intricacies of Section 66 A of the IT Act as in the case of contradictions of Article 19 of the Constitution. Section 66 A of the IT Act could turn out unconstitutional if any case concerned comes under judicial scrutiny,” an official in state Cyber Police said.
There had been clamour in the public domain to repeal sub-sections A and B of Section 66. However legal experts had opined that sub-section C could be retained as it was intended to refer only to SPAM.
“I found it very disturbing that many cases charged under Section 66 A involve statements which were found to be insulting political leaders or else raised allegations of corruption against political leaders. Both these types of statements should be properly dealt with under defamation law and should not be considered under Section 66 A because unlike the law of criminal defamation, no statutory defences even exist under Section 66 A,” said Aparna Vishwanathan, a Supreme Court advocate, specialising in IT laws.
In 2014, the state police had indicted seven persons under Section 66 A, of which two were detained as other charges were also registered against them. However, social activists condemn widespread actions and laws curbing the freedom of expression existing in the country.
“Indeed the IT Act is draconic and it has been used in a very biased manner. It has been used in the past with no democratic concerns. Police are along with megalomaniac politicians and their followers in helping to construct a new fascist Indian society of control and surveillance. Immediate amendments to the IT Act are necessary and, most importantly, the clause which enables the police to arrest someone on the basis of a complaint should be scrapped,” said T T Sreekumar, an activist and professor at Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad.
“Arrest of one Moidu in 2010 for posting Pinarayi Vijayan’s photo with a dialogue from Malayalam film ‘Sandesham’, has been a classic example of check imposed on free speech,” Sreekumar said.