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Air India officials get arrested, lose job over Facebook post

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While the Shaheen Dhada case is yet to be put to rest, another similar incident has come to light

BANGALORE, INDIA: The 'Freedom of Speech vs derogatory and offensive remarks' debate is only getting bigger in India. While the Shaheen Dhada case in Palghar, Mumbai continues, another similar incident has come to light.

Two Air India employees Mayank Mohan Sharma and KVJ Rao were arrested by the cyber crime cell of the Mumbai police in May this year for allegedly sharing lewd jokes about politicians, making derogatory comments against the Prime Minister and insulting the national flag in their posts, according to a report on NDTV. They were arrested under the controversial 66(A) and 67 sections of the Information Technology Act. The two spent 12 days in police custody and were suspended by Air India.

Section 66A of the IT Act 2000 states that a person must be punished for sending information on computers that is grossly offensive or has menacing character. "'Grossly offensive' or 'has menacing character' are vast terms. The Section 66A allows to muddle freedom of speech with parameters far beyond the parameters of Indian Constitution," says Pavan Duggal, cyber law expert. Till the 66A is amended, it will be a tool of harassment. Unless it is amended, every day there will be many committing offences in public life, adds Duggal.

He feels Section 66A was a historic blunder as barring a few cyber crimes, it made all others as bailable. That erases the element of deterrence. "Once out on bail, the person can tamper with incriminating electronic content."

Other than Shaheen Dhada and the Air India officials, a Jadavpur University chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, and a small businessman in Puducherry Ravi S have also been arrested under the IT Act. What do you have to say about these arrests? Is there really a fine line between Freedom of Speech and derogatory, offensive comments? Feel free to express your views in the comment slot below.

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raj Mon Nov 26 at 08:41 PM

First tell us what IT Act provisions will we, as Indian Citizens, attract, to freely express our views before expressing our comments in a FREE, DEMOCRATIC, REPUBLIC INDIA WHICH CONSIDERS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF SPEECH AS A PRE REQUISITE FOR DEMOCRACY.

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