Saturday February 29, 2020

Here’s why the abolition of Section 66 A of the IT Act is a good thing

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

Virtual world and social media are flooded with applauds for the Supreme Court’s decision of quashing of the controversial Section 66 A of the IT Act. Here’s what the verdict of court means for citizens of India.

To start with, let’s examine the wording of the Section 66 A, which clearly states:

“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, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”

This particular Section of the IT Act was used and misused widely in the last few years by the government machinery to curb the constitutional rights of the citizens in the country.

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, the Supreme Court has done the “right and appropriate thing” by striking down the provision.

“It had become an instrument of oppression. It had put too much of power in the hands of law enforcement authorities to persecute and hound people who maybe innocuously or intentionally indulged in dissent,” he told the media.

Section 66A contained legal recourse against a number of cyber crimes such as stalking, bullying, threatening through SMS and email, phishing and spamming, among others. These crimes, will now be left uncovered after the judgement of the apex court.

Legal experts believe that as far as genuine cases of defamation are concerned, there is a provision under Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. Since Section 4 of the IT Act brings electronic information at par with physical documents, the same provision can be applied in the case.

Elaborating the grounds for holding the provision “unconstitutional”, the court said terms like “annoying”, “inconvenient” and “grossly offensive”, used in the provision, are vague as it is difficult for the law enforcement agency and the offender to know the ingredients of the offence. The bench also referred to two judgments of UK courts which reached different conclusions on whether the material in question was offensive or grossly offensive.

“When judicially trained minds can reach on different conclusions” while going through the same content, then how is it possible for law enforcement agency and others to decide as to what is offensive and what is grossly offensive, the bench said, adding, “What may be offensive  to a person may not be offensive to the other.”

The bench rejected the assurance given by the NDA government during the hearing that certain procedures may be laid down to ensure that the law in question is not abused.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that “there was a need for a mechanism to put checks and balances on this medium,” because the Internet doesn’t “operate in an institutional form.”

 “Considering the reach and impact of medium, leeway needs to be given to legislature to frame rules. On the Internet every individual is a director, producer and broadcaster and a person can send offensive material to millions of people at a same time in nanosecond just with a click of button.”  Mehta told the Court.

Mehta also said that the vague wording of Section 66A, which said ‘grossly inoffensive’ content could land someone in prison for three year, was not a good enough reason to get rid of the section.

In the earlier hearings, Mehta had given examples of how the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs, received emails that were designed to hack and steal information from the ministries, in an effort to convince the court that Section 66A was needed to prevent such activities.

“Governments come and go but section 66A will remain forever,” the bench said, adding the present government cannot give an undertaking about its successor that they will not abuse the same.

Apart from raising objections to who could determine what constituted ‘grossly offensive content’, the court has also not been impressed with the government argument that the section was needed to protect government data from hackers, and had pointed out that this eventuality was already dealt with viruses and hacking for which Section 65 of the IT Act was relevant.

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India To have Above 900mn Internet Users By Year 2023: Cisco Report

Social networking, video streaming and downloads, business productivity, e-commerce, and gaming will drive the continued growth of mobile applications, with nearly 46.2 billion downloaded by 2023

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In India, there will be 966 million total mobile users by 2023, up from 763 million or 56 per cent of the population in 2018, according to the "Cisco Annual Internet Report 2018-2023". Pixabay

India will have over 907 million Internet users by 2023, accounting for 64 per cent of the country’s population, a Cisco report said on Tuesday.

Over half a billion people already use the Internet in India.

In India, there will be 966 million total mobile users by 2023, up from 763 million or 56 per cent of the population in 2018, according to the “Cisco Annual Internet Report 2018-2023”.

While smartphones will account for 38 per cent (781 million) of all networked devices by 2023, connected TVs will account for 12 per cent (255.8 million) of all networked devices, as per the projections.

There will be 2.1 billion networked devices in the country by 2023, it added.

“As digital literacy, mobile penetration, and Internet connectivity grow deeper into the hinterland, a massive shift will be created in Internet usage and consumption patterns across the country,” Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers Sales, Cisco India and Saarc, said in a statement.

“This rise in connectivity and changing consumption patterns will challenge service providers’ ability to service their customers in an optimal manner. Flatter and more secure networks leveraging cloud and edge computing, as well as automation to manage the ever-expanding network, is essential for them to keep pace in the digital world,” Bhaskar added.

The report added that there will be 67.2 million total 5G connections in India by 2023, meaning one in 20 connections will be 5G by that time in the country, while 4G connections will be 53.1 per cent of total mobile connections by 2023, and 3G and below connections will be 38.7 per cent of total mobile connections.

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India will have over 907 million Internet users by 2023, accounting for 64 per cent of the country’s population, a Cisco report said on Tuesday. Pixabay

A growing number of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, such as smart meters, video surveillance, healthcare monitoring, transportation, and package or asset tracking, are contributing in a major way to the growth of devices and connections in the country. By 2023, M2M connections will be 25 per cent of the total devices and connections, said the report.

Social networking, video streaming and downloads, business productivity, e-commerce, and gaming will drive the continued growth of mobile applications, with nearly 46.2 billion downloaded by 2023. As per the projections, there will be 1.4 billion mobile connected devices in India by 2023, 697.4 million wired/Wi-Fi connected devices.

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The report added that 66 per cent of the global population (5.3 billion people) will be Internet users by 2023. (IANS)