Sharad Pawar: Reintroduce Section 66A of IT Act, Repeal Sedition, Says Sharad Pawar | India News

MUMBAI: Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar in his affidavit filed before the Commission of Inquiry Koregaon Bhima suggested legal reforms and said Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 124A (sedition) is “often used misguidedly against people who criticize the government by suppressing their freedom and tend to stifle any dissenting voices rising in a peaceful and democratic way.
Pawar also suggested the reintroduction of Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act which was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Shreya Singhal case to which he said he “bows”.
But to give the Computers Act some teeth, he said Section 66A would “be reintroduced” “following SC guidelines” and “the utmost precaution should be taken not to exceed the SC’s verdict”.
Pawar said social media platforms “lack oversight by statutory agencies due to which immense false propaganda can be carried out on these platforms without any accountability.” He said “fake news” on social media can lead to “serious religious tensions, caste tensions”.
He said that “Section 66 A provides for a recognizable and non-dischargeable offense to be registered against cyber crooks who engage in malicious online defamation campaigns and propagate online community hatred, etc.”
Pawar said “in contemporary times, it is easy to see that any sensitive incident is followed by online cyber warfare with palpable incitement to violence, communal hatred and malicious online campaigns.” These, he said, “lead to serious public order situations and pose a serious challenge to law enforcement.”
Pawar was summoned by the commission consisting of retired Chief Justice JN Patel and Sumit Mullick to appear before it the first week of May, in Mumbai, where commission lawyer Ashish Satpute would question him.
Pawar suggested that IPC Section 124A “should be stopped with amendments or the section should be repealed”.
He filed a supplemental affidavit on April 11 before the commission. His first affidavit was filed last September.
Pawar said he was filing the supplemental affidavit to suggest “changes in law enforcement law.”
“It is a humble attempt on my part to honor the public call of this Commission, thereby suggesting certain reforms in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code.”
Pawar reiterated that he had “no personal knowledge or information about the sequence of events leading up to the unfortunate incident in Koregaon Bhima (Pune district) on 1 January 2018”.
He also said he made “no allegation” against “a political agenda or motive behind such an incident.”
Some provisions of the CrPC need to be changed to control “riot-like situations” and to maintain law and order, Pawar said.
Pawar also proposed changes to Section 144 CrPC and Section 188 of the IPC.
Under Section 144, an “executive magistrate is empowered to impose a curfew in case of emergency or apprehended nuisance or danger,” Pawar said, adding that it is an administrative order. which, if violated, becomes punishable under Article 188 ICC, where the penalty is only a simple term of imprisonment of up to one month or a fine of ₹200 or s if he provokes a riot, the sentence can be up to six months.
Pawar said that since Section 188 is releasable it is “ineffective” and to make it effective in controlling riots it should be made non-releasable. He also said that under the Property Damage Prevention Act, any damage must also be subject to weekly or monthly reviews.
Pawar also addressed the “role of the media” and said responsible media can act as a bridge between protesters, government and police and be a “buffer to ease tensions”. Pawar said “law enforcement should be trained to deal with ‘media intelligence’ and this will ‘ensure better coordination between the two pillars of democracy which are the executive and the media’.”
He concluded by saying, “Given the constantly changing socio-economic and political conditions, a vast democratic nation like India should also adapt to changes in the legal system.”
“The law of the land is dynamic, not static.”
With the repeal of Section 66A, “only ad hoc action can be taken against those groups who incite communal violence and smear campaigns by invoking certain sections of the IPC such as Section 505, which is why I proposes a change in the computer law…” Pawar said.
He also said that “the IT law is clearly outdated as it was written two decades ago and since then the cyber world has completely changed” and “cybercrime has become the world’s leading organized crime syndicate with revenues and damages worth trillions of dollars”. therefore, “new legislation” is needed to tackle online crime and cybercrime, as “the incendiary potential of violent online campaigns is very high”.
With the repeal of Section 66A, “only ad hoc action can be taken against those groups who incite communal violence and smear campaigns by invoking certain sections of the IPC such as Section 505, which is why I proposes a change in the computer law…” Pawar said.
He also said that “the IT law is clearly outdated as it was written two decades ago and since then the cyber world has completely changed” and “cybercrime has become the world’s leading organized crime syndicate with revenues and damages worth trillions of dollars”. therefore, “new legislation” is needed to tackle online crime and cybercrime, as “the incendiary potential of violent online campaigns is very high”.