Suaran Singh Sidhu on BFM: “What is the intent of 114A?”

On 25 May, Kathleen Tan interviewed Suaran Singh Sidhu, a property lawyer, on the amendments to the Evidence Act. It was one of the first public instances to speak out on Section 114a and was an informative piece that raised awareness and encouraged the involvement of local NGO’s.

Suaran Sidhu discussed the purpose of the law and some of its possible implications. He said the government believed the law was necessary because of the difficulty in tracing slanderous and libelous statements online.

His main concern came down to the intention of the amendment: “Why have this? What is the intent? Is it to go after anonymous bloggers or to censor free speech and discourse happening on social media?… It is my opinion that the entire amendment is wider than what is required to address that mischief or intent.”

He explained that the definition of “computer” in the act has been expanded to include many more data devices, which has very far-reaching consequences. He also expressed his concern for the fact that the host, administrator the editor, the sub editor can be held responsible for the content that is posted.

He claimed that if the intent of this amendment is to go after anonymous bloggers, the “presumption of publication” could be helpful. The problem is that the amendment goes beyond that and has repercussions of self-censorship.

He spoke of the potential threats to free speech and people’s fear of the amendment causing a filtering of their comments. The amendment can be abused in so many ways.

To hear the interview for yourself, listen to the podcast on BFM’s website: