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The Legislative response to Grossly Offensive or menacing emails and SMS
The pattern of offending behavior has changed due to new and improved communications technology like emails, SMS etc.  The communication via SMS or electronic email manifests the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by our constitution to every citizen [Article 19 (1) (a)], however, the freedom is not absolute, it is a qualified right, as constitution can put reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this freedom for instance public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Due to the misuse of the modern communication device and increased incidents of sending hate messages, threatening SMS, threatening Email to politicians, VIPs in politically charged environment, the legislature introduced Section 66A Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 notified w.e.f. 27th October, 2009. The legislative intent was to make it as a punishable offence  viz; act of sending SMS, emails, or posting of any messages via communication device or computer resource which is grossly offensive or of menacing character or any information which the sender knows to be false but posted for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity etc. or disguised or anonymous emails or fake emails to cause annoyance. The Section 66A appears to be influenced by Section 127 of the Communication Act, 2003 (UK Legislation) which covers the sending of grossly offending or menacing messages via public electronic communications network. Further, what is “Grossly Offensive or having menacing character” is not defined under our law or for that matter under UK legislation either. However, some judicial pronouncements of UK throw some light of the meaning of these expressions, accordingly, a menacing message, fairly plainly, are a message which conveys a threat. Further to decide whether a message is grossly offensive, the Justices must apply the standards of an open and just multi-racial society, and that the words must be judged taking account of their context and all relevant circumstances.

There have been lots of recent incidents of threatening SMS, emails sent to parliamentarians, VIPs etc. and the police have invoked Section 66A IT Act but wrongly invoked Section 506 IPC as the IT contains Section 81 which gives overriding effect to the provisions of IT Act over any other law including IPC. Further, the provisions of Special Act override the provisions of general act.

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