IT Act Current Affairs

TK Viswanathan Committee Recommendations to deal with hate speech on internet

An expert committee headed by former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Viswanathan to deal with cybercrimes especially online hate speech has submitted its report to Union Home Ministry.

The committee was formed after Supreme Court struck down Section 66 A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 in Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India. Section 66 A of IT Act was added to criminalize sending of offensive messages through a computer or other communication devices.

Recommendations

The committee has recommended appointing cybercrime coordinators in all states and establishing cybercrime cells in each district. They will deal with those fomenting trouble or spreading hate against anybody on rounds of religion, race, caste or community, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, place of birth or residence, disability or tribe through any means of communication.

It has suggested replacing some clauses of the IT Act, 2000 and amending some sections of IPC like 153 (want only giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505A (false and mischievous reports intended to upset public tranquillity) to deal with online hate crimes.

It has recommended punishment under amended clause dealing with prohibiting incitement to hatred of two years imprisonment or fine of Rs 5,000 or both. It has suggested that offences under amended Section 505A be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or fine or Rs 5,000 or both.

The committee suggested that state cybercrime coordinator should be an officer not below the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP). The district cybercrime cell should be headed by an officer not below the rank of sub-inspector of police.

Background

The Union Home Ministry had constituted committee under chairmanship of former Law Secretary TK Viswanathan to assist government in establishing effective legal framework to deal with cybercrimes related to hate speech on internet. It was having members from Law Ministry, CBI and Ministry of Home Affairs.

It was tasked to study and examine existing domestic cyber laws and international cyber legislations and propose measures, amendments to present laws. It was also mandated to recommend amendments to Information Technology Act, 2000 and corresponding provisions in IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act to facilitate establishment of strong legal framework to fight cybercrimes. It was also mandated to draw a roadmap taking into account the need of legal competence and expertise on cyber laws from investigation, prosecution and judiciary angles.

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Recommendations of RV Easwar Committee on simplification of the provisions of IT Act, 1961

Expert Committee to simplify income tax laws headed by Justice (retired) R.V. Easwar has submitted its report to Union Finance Ministry.

The 10 member committee has recommended simplifying provisions related to tax deduction at source (TDS), tax refunds and claims of expenditure for deduction from taxable income.

It also has suggested several taxpayer-friendly measures to improve the ease of doing business in the country, accelerate process of tax dispute resolutions and reduce litigation.

Key recommendations are

  • Deferring the contentious Income Computation and Disclosure Standards (ICDS) provisions and making the process of tax refunds faster.
  • Deletion of a clause in IT Act, 1961 that allows the IT department to delay tax refund due beyond six months. In case of delay in refunds levying higher interest.
  • IT department should stop the practice of adjusting tax demand of a taxpayer against legitimate refunds due whose tax return is under assessment.
  • Treat stock trading gains of up to 5 lakh rupees as capital gains and not business income.
  • TDS rates for individuals must be reduced to 5 per cent from current 10 per cent. Dividend income should be treated as part of total income.
  • Exempting non-residents not having a Permanent Account Number (PAN), but seeking to provide their Tax Identification Number (TIN) for the applicability of TDS at a higher rate.
  • Most of the working processes of the IT departments should be conducted electronically in order to minimize direct human interface.
  • Eligibility criteria under the presumptive tax scheme to be increased to 2 crore rupees from 1 crore rupees to make it easy for small businesses. Such scheme should be also for professionals.

Background

Union Government had constituted this committee in October 2015 by following up on a promise to provide a fair and predictable tax regime.

The committee was tasked to suggest recommendations to overhaul the IT Act, 1961 to remove ambiguities that cause unnecessary litigation and update the laws based on various judgements.

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