Top News

Social media gives thumbs up to scrapping of Section 66A of IT Act

The Supreme Court has decided to scrap Section
66A of Information Technology Act. In their order, the court said, Section 66A
is violative of Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence
unconstitutional. Experts believe that it is also time to reframe the restrictions on free speech under Article 19(2) and the illiberal sections of the IPC. 

The Supreme Court has decided to scrap Section
66A of Information Technology Act. In their order, the court said, Section 66A
is violative of Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence
unconstitutional. Experts believe that it is also time to reframe the restrictions on free speech under Article 19(2) and the illiberal sections of the IPC. 

The court has given the government a week
to clarify its stand on Section 66A.The contentious law, which is seen as a infringement
of the freedom of speech online, allowed the arrest of a person for posting
offensive content, reports the Times
of India
.

Introduced in 2000, Section 66A of the
Information Technology Act has been described by the court as “vague in
its entirety,” and the judges also said that it encroaches upon “the
public’s right to know.” The apex court also said Section 66A of IT Act
clearly affects Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined under
Constitution.

Further, the court said Section 66 A was unconstitutional
because it failed two major tests – the clear and present danger test and the
tendency to create public disorder test.  SC also found the language used in the Section
vague and nebulous saying it doesn’t properly define words like ‘offensive’ or
even ‘persistent’.

However, the court allowed the government to block websites
if their contents had the potential to create communal disturbance, social
disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries. The Court said
there is a difference between discussion, advocacy and incitement. Discussion
& advocacy, no matter how annoying, is allowed said the division bench in it’s
judgment.

During the hearing the court had found several issues with
the wording of the law. In particular, it said that terms like ‘grossly
offensive’ and ‘of menacing character’, used to classify content as illegal,
were vague expressions and these words were likely to be misunderstood and
abused.

The SC delivered its judgment on many petitions filed in the
light of misuse of the penal provision by government authorities against
persons who allegedly uploaded offensive posts on social networking sites. The
petitioners had argued that Section 66A violated citizens’ fundamental right to
freedom of speech and expression.

The first PIL on the issue was filed by a law
student named Shreya Singhal after two young women were arrested in 2012 for
posting comments critical of the total shutdown in Mumbai after the death of
Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief. The group that challenged the law in the
Supreme Court expanded to include the NGO Common Cause and  Bangladeshi
writer Taslima Nasreen.

Last week, while commenting on the arrest of a 14 year old boy in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, on sharing sharing a questionable Facebook comment, Communications and Information Technology Minister of India Ravi Shankar Prasad had tweeted:

Post the decision of SC, he said:

Section 66A reads: (Punishment for
sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.)

Any
person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—

(a)
any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

(b)
any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance,
inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation,
enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer
resource or a communication device; or

(c)
any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing
annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or
recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with
imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

(For
the purposes of this section, terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail
message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a
computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including
attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record,
which may be transmitted with the message.)

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close