Supreme Court strikes down Section 66 A of IT Act

Facts are sacred and comment is free, they say.

Now you can write whatever you want on the internet, social media and other websites. Your freedom that has so far been hindered can now run riot in an unabated manner. You can now pour out in a no-holds-barred manner on the social media sites. And, it is legal.

Why? The Supreme Court of India has put its foot down and asserted that Freedom of Expression guaranteed under the Constitution could not be compromised.

Supreme Court strikes down Section 66 A of IT Act

Declaring the Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act that so far empowered the police to arrest those who post objectionable content and that provides for a jail term up to three years unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the proviso.

A bench consisting of of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice R.F. Nariman, which heard the case, reserved the verdict on February 26. The jury heard the case that challenged the constitutional validity of the “most controversial issues” about the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution of India.

While the Government put forth an argument that the Section 66 A could not be declared as unconstitutional, owing its “likely abuse”, the Supreme Court took a different view.

Supreme Court strikes down Section 66 A of IT Act

While the government strongly pitched for its argument that the cyber space could not be left unregulated, though it did not want to curtail the freedom of expression at any stage, the Supreme Court took objection to the same. It found fault with the government for failing to define the terms like “ grossly offensive” and “Mencing Character” which were vague and could be misinterpreted by anyone to suit themselves.

The Hindu reported that the first public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue was filed in 2012 by a law student Shreya Singhal, who sought amendment in Section 66A of the Act, after two girls — Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — were arrested in Palghar in Thane district as one of them posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it.

The apex court had on 16 May 2013, come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like the IG or the DCP.

A Saye Sekhar

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