Govt may introduce graded responses to first-time cyber offenders

If the ongoing discussions pertaining to the government’s attempt towards building a system to regulate cyberspace and social media bear fruit, then first-time offenders and teens may be let off with a warning and parental guidance.  


The Times of India reports that the government is toying with the idea of doling out a graded response to cyber crimes, involving those who unknowingly end up violating cyber laws, i.e., first-time offenders, and teens. A graded response would comprise warning and parental guidance. The idea behind such a move would be to spare someone, unaware of the gravity of their crime -- since he or she is a first-time offender -- a punishment under the IPC. On the whole, the government is looking at a way of dealing with Internet offences softly, given the young age of the offenders, at times. The report indicates that the government’s aim may be an indication of the fact that the punishments under the IT Act may prove to be too harsh to the young minds.  


Graded response for first-time offenders (Image credit: Getty Images)



At the moment, however, reports suggest that discussions pertaining to the graded response system are at a primary stage, and it is possible that more tweaks will be introduced before all is finalised. Going further, the government is of the opinion that a softer response would be an effective method to deal with those offenders on the Internet who shared objectionable content, without being aware of the contents and without intending to do so. 


Importantly, those found guilty of uploading and disseminating objectionable content on the net, under the IT Act attract a maximum punishment of 7 years. Now, even while the court would decide that, the legal proceedings itself, according to the government would have an adverse effect on the accused's education and career ahead, while also giving imparting social stigma. 


In light of the recent turn of events in the country, especially those triggering the widespread 'exodus' of northeast Indians from various parts of the country, reports emerged indicating that the government is working towards preventing the misuse of the Internet and social media, both of which are popular in the country. The Economic Times reported that last month, in a meeting in the PMO, it had been decided that an "appropriate regime" would be installed that would deal with issues of blocking content on the Internet and on the social media in a 'smart, timely and consistent manner'. The meeting was a well-attended one, with the heads of all intelligence agencies, representatives from the ministries of Home, Telecom and IT.


The appropriate regime that the government plans to set up will essentially be to have an effective cyber monitoring system in place. The regime, minutes of which have been reviewed by the Economic Times added that the regime also includes laying out guidelines and procedures on the kind of content that would be required to be blocked and decide on the penalties that are to be meted out to those guilty.


Among other things, the government also plans on introducing a legal wing that will look into the loose threads in the existing IT Act, and tighten it, accordingly to make it capable of dealing with situations, like this one in the past. The onus of planning out the structure and the mandate of the new regime rests with the ministries of home and IT.


Quoting a source, the report went to add further, "As of now, the only clarity is that a first-time offender will be dealt lightly through non-punitive remedies like warning, counselling and parental guidance. It is only where these approaches fail an FIR will be registered."

Published Date: Sep 17, 2012 05:43 pm | Updated Date: Sep 17, 2012 05:43 pm