The Tamil Nadu government has decided to make amendments to the existing Goondas act to bring cyber crime under its purview. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa made this announcement as part of her concluding remarks at the conference of District Collectors and Police Officers, held in Chennai. Those put behind bars under this provision can't obtain bail for one year.
Now there is speculation that the state government could target those who are active in social media, if required. Not long ago the Chennai police had arrested a few men including an Assistant Professor for posting obscene remarks and unsubstantiated allegations against popular singer Ms Chinmayee.
In the present form Goondas Act is invoked only against habitual offenders, but after amendment it can be invoked against even first time offenders or a single offence that has the propensity to disturb public peace.
Some look at this development as an attempt to gag free expression via online platforms like facebook and twitter. Mr Puneet, an online buff says "it's a clear attempt to muzzle criticism, free and bold expression; the government is turning intolerant". But Ms Thilaga feels it is a step in the right direction. She adds "off late the social media has turned free for all with no accountability for the comments made; this would weed out grave posts that are unsubstantiated and those that violate one's right to privacy and dignity".
Though the Tamil Nadu government had invoked Goonda's Act against many DMK functionaries over the last one year the Madras High Court had struck it down in a few cases. The DMK strongman late Mr Veerapandi Arumugam was among the few who were released from jail on bail following direction by court.