Is Blogging A Crime?

Making nasty comments online can land you in jail

Pallavi Paul/ CNN-IBN

Published on Wed, Mar 04, 2009 at 21:25, Updated on Wed, Mar 04, 2009 at 22:33 in Sci-Tech section

New Delhi: Do you open up most when you’re online? Well, don’t. Nineteen-year-old Ajith rallied against the Shiv Sena on his Orkut community. Now he risks being thrown in jail. Thanks to a recent observation by the Supreme Court, which could become a template for all future cases.
“There are so many charges against Ajith, such as x, y, z. Our constitution does not allow such activity so it is not acceptable,” says Cyber lawyer Karnika Seth.
There are punishments for posting obscenity, inciting public disharmony, intimidation, even defamation. The problem is that how will these laws be interpreted.
In the heat of the Mumbai attacks, Cheytanya Kunte blogged against journalists revealing vital info on TV. He was forced to apologise by the channel.
Gaurav Sabnis complained about the standards of teaching at a Management institute. His write-up was forced off the net. Rashmi Bansal, who wrote about the same topic faced the music too.
“I personally don’t believe in deleting comments, the blog is like my living room, the door is open and people can come and join it but I can’t be held responsible for what they say,” says Founder and Editor of youth magazine JAM, Rashmi Bansal.
What is worrisome about the Supreme Court’s latest stand is that people like Rashmi could be threatened with jail, if anyone finds her writing offensive or untrue.
Bloggers are now crying foul and demanding freedom of expression online. If someone finds this offensive can they be hauled to court too?
“With the kind of laws that exist, it is very easy for a blogger to be dragged to court. Now, a journalist has the means to fight such cases, but a poor fellow sitting in Bangalore, him getting out or work to go defend himself is very problematic,” says blogger Amit Varma.
So, next time you upload a video to youtube or a photo to Flickr, message your friends on Facebook or update your blog make sure you aren’t breaking the law.