The government, stung by criticism of arbitrary arrests under section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, on Thursday came out with new guidelines to stop its misuse.
Now, a complaint under the IT Act can be registered only after an approval of either a Deputy Commissioner of Police in rural areas or an Inspector General of Police in major cities.
This will ensure that there is some application of thought by the police to prevent a situation similar to the arrests of two girls from Palghar in Maharashtra for posting an innocuous comment on Facebook, protesting the shutdown of Mumbai for Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's funeral earlier this month, minister for communications and information technology Kapil Sibal said.
Sibal announced the new guidelines after a meeting of the cyber advisory regulatory committee, a body of all IT stakeholders, which has rarely met in the past two years. He even asked civil society members to attend the meet.
While the government has so far ruled out annulling section 66(A) or even making major changes to it, the guidelines are expected to prevent arbitrary arrests under the law, as has happened all too often in the recent past.
''A junior police officer cannot register any complaint unless he has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below the rank of DCP in urban and rural areas of the country and not below the rank of IGP in metropolitan cities,'' Sibal said soon after the conference. ''Once this power is exercised at that level - and they are IPS officers - we are absolutely certain that the kind of instances we have seen will not be repeated.''