Monday, January 5, 2009

Forwarding an explicit MMS could land you in the prison

Amendments to Information Technology Act make it a crime to send obscene or inciting emails, SMSes, MMSes; punishment includes three years or more in jail and fine of Rs 10 lakh

If you ever receive any sexually explicit images in your inbox — whether or not it’s from someone you know —don’t even think about hitting ‘forward’. It could land you in jail.

New amendments to the Information Technology Act 2000, passed by the Lok Sabha in the last week of December 2008, treat some seemingly ordinary acts as a crime and provide for strict punishments.

For instance, publishing (creating) and transmitting obscene material and any sexually explicit act is a cognizable offence and can invite a jail term of up to five years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.

Sending offensive, intimidating and hate messages using your computer, cell phone, PDA, etc also calls for the same punishment.

Likewise, using an electronic medium to forward voyeuristic MMSes of film personalities, etc captured using hidden cameras could also lead to imprisonment.

Stringent laws have also been enforced against acquiring and using someone else’s passwords. So the next time you think of playing a
prank on a friend, keep in mind that it will be treated as identity theft, and punishment is a jail term of three years.

The earlier act dealt more with ecommerce and digital signatures, while the amendments cover all areas of cyber crime.

They cover all equipment that can be used for generation and transmission of data, including computers, mobile phones, PDAs, etc.

Earlier there was no provision for data theft, pornography or cyber terrorism. Apart from making these acts punishable, the Act has brought into its ambit various other criminal acts like intimidation, impersonation, cheating, forgery, fraud. It has also made stringent provisions for invasion of privacy.

WHAT HAS CHANGED AND HOW

The Information Technology Act, which took shape in year 2000 when the IT revolution was booming in India, did not provide for punishments for crimes like data theft, obscenity and pornography. Since
then, cyber crimes have been on the rise and the existing provisions were proving insufficient. The Information Technology department thus introduced amendments that would act as a foundation in cyber management in the days and years to come.

So far, punishment for a majority of the offences under the IT Act was up to two years in jail, making them non-cognizable. However, under the amendments, punishment for violations related to identify theft, obscenity, offensive messages, etc are for three years or more, which allows the police to step in and take action.

In the backdrop of the November 26 terror attacks, the Lok Sabha cleared the amendments in a jiffy, and thus these strict amendments have gone relatively unnoticed.

NEW PROVISIONS OF THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT
66 A: Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.
66C: Punishment for identity theft.
66E: Punishment for violation of privacy.
67: Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
67 A: Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act,etc. in electronic form
77 B: Offences with three years imprisonment to be cognizable

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