The Gujarat government is preparing a draft bill, which is likely to be tabled in the state assembly during the two-day monsoon session that starts from August 8. The proposed bill has raised a controversy with many alleging it may contravene the people’s right to freedom of expression. The bill reportedly allows for legal action against those who post objectionable content which can hurt religious or social sentiments and make controversial allegations against government authorities, individuals and political parties among others.
Under new rules, police will have the power to arrest any person, who posts or forwards objectionable content. It also proposes one to three years imprisonment for such offences.There are laws such as the IT Act and the IPC Act for this but the new act will give special powers to the police. Gujarat minister of state (home, law and legislative affairs) Pradipsinh Jadeja said, when contacted, that the state is checking other ways through which misuse of social media can be prevented
The draft bill is likely to be approved by the cabinet in a meeting to be held on Wednesday and will be tabled in the House for passage the same day, government sources said, on condition of anonymity.
The proposed law would control hate messages against politicians, too. “The IT act and IPC is also there but many of the times, the courts and different legal forums do not up hold the plea or argument of police as provisions in the existing acts are not sufficient or strong enough,” they added.
“This will be a special act to be framed by Gujarat government to which the Gujarat cabinet also has given the approval. The government has asked the officials of home, legal, parliamentary and legislation and information and technology departments to form a draft of the act,” they added.”There are acts such as IT Act and IPC Act for this but this new act will give special power to the police or enforcement agency to control the hatred messages on social media,” the sources said.
The IT Act, 2000 which was amended in 2008, has provision for punishment for publishing or transmitting objectionable contents under section 67 and 66E.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is senior journalist based at Ahmedabad. He is the editor of Gujarat Siyasat