Yesterday, there were preliminary reports about the Cyber Crime statistics released by NCRB for 2014. This is a set of statistics gathered by collating the data from different state level police. Today some enthusiastic journalists have started writing their analytical articles commenting on what the statistics indicate.
Yesterday we briefly indicated that the statistics are misleading but dismissed it as indicative of the ignorance of police in classifying complaints based on whatever suggestions they receive from the public prosecutors. Today when we see media doing its bit to add their ignorance, it is time to once again remind the public that the inferences suggested by some of the media today are like the blind leading the blind. It is directing the society to complete untruth.
Our experience earlier indicates that such misdirections affect even Supreme Court judges and erroneous judgement are delivered because even judges tend to believe what the ignorant media flashes in big head lines particularly in Delhi.
I therefore pick up the report of Hindustan Times today which is titled “Stats from 2014 reveal horror of scrapped section 66A of IT Act”. The article is credited to Mr Aloke Tikku of Hindustan Times and I would like to address this article directly to him. Those of you who know him personally ensure that this article is forwarded to him so that he can publish a rejoinder if he should not cause further damage with wrong analysis.
The article quotes Shreya Singhal as saying “These statistics are shocking. I had assumed there may be a few hundred cases, at worst……It validates the judgment even more than when it was delivered,”
I completely disagree with this view which further highlights the fact that Ms Shreya Singhal supported by some high profile advocates of Delhi created a web of misperception that Section 66A was used repeatedly to curb the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and needed to be scrapped. The honourable judges lapped up the argument and scrapped the section and cried “Victory for Democracy”. Now the same band wagon is quoting the NCRB statistics to say ” How good it was that the section 66A was scrapped”.
There have been a detailed discussion of Section 66A in these columns earlier and there is no need to reiterate the views once again. However, it is necessary to remind the Section 66A baiters that the section was meant to address the harmful effects of messages sent through e-mail and SMS/MMS systems and not for face book, twitter or other social media publications. Police made the mistake of adding this section to book political opponents of ruling party. They would have added any other section if necessary as long as they could please their political masters. Scrapping of the section 66A solely based on such cases booked by police under the section was a betrayal of ignorance all round.
Now, let us look at the NCRB statistics. What excites the Scrap 66A lobby is that 1196 cases were pending under Sec 66A and 4192 more added in 2014. Obviously this looks alarming if it is a true reflection of offences under the section. The same statistics indicates that no cases were booked under Section 66. To any body who is familiar with ITA 2008, Section 66 is an omnibus section which can bring any offence involving a computer under its ambit. If police report zero cases under this section and book 4192 cases under Section 66A, it appears that they consider Section 66A is a sub section of Section 66. There are 1294 cases booked under Section 66B, 66C and 66D which should have automatically attracted section 66 as well. The statistics donot therefore add up.
Similarly I can see other inconsistencies in booking of cases under Section 67C or 68 and “others”. Without going into individual case facts it is difficult to understand how the cases were booked under the specific sections as indicated.
I want the journalists to take a relook at how they report Section 66A issues since it has been flogged for all the wrong reasons.