The government of Tamil Nadu amended the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, 1982 (Goondas Act) on August 11 this year. This amendment brought into its scope cyber offenders and sexual offenders as well. This amendment has also added few legal and constitutional complications as well.
As expected, the amended Goondas Act has been challenged before the Madras High Court in the form of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that has directed the Tamil Nadu government to file counter affidavit within four weeks. The PIL sees to declare the amended Goondas Act, which brings cyber offenders and sexual offenders under its ambit, as null and void.
A Bench Comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan directed the government lawyer STS Moorthy to file counter affidavit and asked the petitioner S Raju, State Co-coordinator, Human Rights Protection Centre, Tamil Nadu, to file rejoinder within two weeks thereafter.
In his petition, Raju submitted that the government had amended the Goondas Act by bringing cyber and sexual offenders under its ambit omitting the word “habitual”. This means that the Act would allow an offender to be arrested even if he/she is a first time offender and the Act in its present form could be misused. He also submitted that preventive detention of a sexual offender would serve no purpose as speedy justice in this regard can be achieved only through expeditious investigation.
Similarly, he has also claimed that preventive detention of a cyber offender will deny the individual freedom of speech and expression as it is a prior restraint i.e. government action that prohibits speech or other expression even before it takes place. He believes that such prior restraint is impermissible and it makes much easier for the government to censor material and it places the censorial power in the hands of an administrative or executive authority.
The social media which depends only on the usage of IT to bring out information about “corrupt” politicians and information on government authorities, will be under restraint in the cyber crime using due to this “draconian act”, he alleged and prayed to quash the amended act and requested to declare it as null and void.