Yielding to protests on the recent controversial arrest of some people for their Facebook posts, the government on Thursday came out with guidelines where a police officer no less than the rank of DCP can sanction prosecution.
In metropolitan cities, such an approval would have to be given by officers at the level of the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
Only officers of these ranks will be allowed to permit registration of a case for offences under the Information Technology (IT) Act relating to spreading hatred through electronic messages in a bid to prevent the misuse of the legislation.
“... the police officer or police station concerned 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. Currently, a police station in-charge or an inspector can register a case under the said provision.
Guidelines in this regard are being issued against the backdrop of the arrest of two girls by the police in Mumbai under Section 66 (A) of the IT Act that deals with spreading hatred through electronic messages.
The arrest of the two teenage girls, who had criticised the shutdown in Mumbai for Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s funeral, had triggered an outrage. The Maharashtra police has decided to drop the charges.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old boy was detained in Thane district on suspicion of posting “objectionable” comments on Facebook against MNS chief Raj Thackeray, but was let off.
The source expressed confidence that such instances can be avoided once the new guidelines are in place. 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 issue some operational guidelines.