Section 66A of the IT Act is a relevant section which penalizes ‘sending false and offensive messages through communication services’. The section reads as under –
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
a)any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
b)any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
c)any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.
Punishment – Imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Explanation — For the purpose of this section, terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.
The section covers two different acts –
- Sending offensive or menacing messages sent by using electronic communication means.
- Sending false messages to cheat, mislead or deceive people or to cause annoyance to them.
While proving false message is relatively easy, but the real question is ‘What constitutes an electronic message to be offensive or of menacing character?’ Indian law has not defined anywhere the meaning of ‘offensive’ or ‘menacing’. As per the laws of general English, a person receiving message should find that to be offensive to apply this provision, so its interpretation becomes relative and differs from person to person.
In the recent future, this law have come under lot of fire. With Mamta Banerjee abusing it to arrest two professor for sending a joke on facebook and two girls being arrested for writing about the bund in Mumbai after the death of Bala saheb.
After these two major incident, guidelines have been issued making an arrest possible only after the approval from the top cop in the city. With these new guidelines, it is expected that this law would not be abused in the future.
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