Section 66A of the Information Technology Act
Part of: GS Prelims and GS -II – Judiciary; Important Judgements
In news The Union Home Ministry has asked the States and the Union Territories to withdraw immediately the cases registered under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act,2000
- Recently, The Supreme Court (SC) has expressed shock that the provision was still being used to book people, though SC held it as unconstitutional and a violation of free speech in the Shreya Singhal judgment, 2015
About Shreya Singhal judgment
- Section 66(A) of the Act criminalizes the sending of offensive messages through a computer or other communication device.
- Section 66A gives arbitrary powers to the police to make arrests for any “offensive” message – an entirely subjective term. This has the potential for being abused by authorities for curbing dissent
- Over the past few years, incidents related to comments, sharing of information, or thoughts expressed by an individual on the Internet have attracted criminal penalties under Section 66(A)
- Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist, was arrested invoking the same provision for making sketch on the state of parliamentary conduct of the politicians and was charged with sedition
- In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case, the entire provision was struck down by Supreme Court, which is considered a watershed moment for online free speech in India.
- The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
- Describing the law as “vague in its entirety,” the Supreme Court said, it encroaches upon the public’s right to know.
- Further, the mere causing of annoyance, inconvenience, danger, etc., or being grossly offensive or having a menacing character are not offences under the Indian Penal Code at all.
- After that the government had appointed an expert committee (T.K. Viswanathan committee) which proposed legislation to meet the challenge of hate speech online.
News Source: TH