Can women really exercise right to speech? At what cost?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Deeply hurt by the action of the Mumbai police against the two girls I am back to my blogger’s dashboard again. India is going through a wonderful changing period. The young generation is finally understands that there is some thing beyond school studies, competitive exams and medical and engineering degrees.  The two old heads may finally look forward towards fulfilling their dreams, the Missile man Abdul Kalam, who invited fresh brains to join politics and Anna Hazare who made young generation understand that fighting for a corruption free India is more important than ‘feeding’ the ‘babu’s unnecessarily. Yes, India is running towards a bright future and that has been made possible largely by a few US companies like the Facebook, Twitter and Google. The law pundits, human right activists and the brave teachers must feel good that the young generation is opening up their thoughts. We always hear that a democracy becomes stronger when right to speech is enjoyed to the maximum. But off late, I am getting to see some chilling effects to this great thought. Many often, those who are really misusing right to speech within the meaning of Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution somehow successfully remain out of reach of the police and the judiciary.  But those who may be perfectly within the ambit of Article 19(1) of the constitution are being hooked up by the police for wrong reasons.   The law which has become (in)famous for gagging the speech in the internet is section 66A of  the Information Technology Act, 2008.The two three instances of questioning the political big shots through social media and the consequences thereof  did establish a bad example which questioned the core existence of section 66A of the Information technology Act, 2008. It prohibits transmitting though communication technology a)any  information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or b) any  information which the sender knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes 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. 
While the rest of India may think that it chills the freedom of speech and it must be scrapped, I support it’s existence;but not at the cost of its misuse because I feel it does help victims especially women victims of cyber crime.  I am getting confusing informations about the legal provisions that have been used to arrest the two girls who spoke about the situation of Mumbai on the funeral of  Bal Thackery in Facebook.  The Times of India mentioned about section 64A of the Information Technology Act which was used to book the girl ( see http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/21-year-old-girl-arrested-for-Facebook-post-slamming-Bal-Thackeray/articleshow/17276979.cms), while NDTV told that it was section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, which was used. Section 64 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) does not have any trailing provision, neither it speaks about offences( it speaks about recovery of compensation or penalty in special reference to cyber appellate tribunal’s power. It says “A penalty imposed or compensation awarded under this Act, if it is not paid, shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue and the license or the Electronic Signature Certificate, as the case may be, shall be suspended till the penalty is paid.”). Presumably, it should have been section 66A and not section 64A. Section505 (2) of the IPC on the other hand prohibits issuing of statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill- will between classes.  The recent news said that the girls have got the bail and their lawyer has pressed that the concerned statement doesn’t fall under the category of either of these laws. 
True, Bal Thackery’s funeral may have made a section of people deeply mourned. But does that mean that no one should express one’s own feeling regarding this?  I can not support chilling of the right to speech by misusing a law especially like section 66A which has great potential to prohibit truly unprotected speech. Think of so many common men and women who had to suffer due to the standstill condition of a city. Did the veteran really want this? Probably no. But look at the aftermath; the IPC section was applied to directly book her for an offence which she may have never intended to create.  If the reports of vandalism are true, then the police now must take action to prevent any further untowardly incidents against the people at large and also  against the girl. See the first blow on her; she has become traumatised to go to Facebook again. I fear, this may be the beginning of a long lasting ‘bad phase’ for her. My earnest appeal to the society that let my fear not come true.  Sadly I note that she created one more example that when women speak their minds they inevitably invite trouble, whether online or offline. Let peace prevail.


**The author does not intend to hurt anybody’s political or religious sentiments. This is an independent view of the author and the author has expressed her views in her own right towards exercising freedom of speech. If anybody feels hurt, the author apologises in advance.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2012), “Can women really exercise right to speech? At what cost? ”, 19thNovember,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/










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