Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Section 66A of IT Act, 2000

The Supreme Court (SC) of India, on March 24, 2015, struck down the Section 66A of Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, by terming it as 'unconstitutional'. A bench of Justices J.Chelameswar and Rohinton F.Nariman passed this judgment by pronouncing "Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirely".

Section 66A - Information Technology Act, 2000
As per this section, sending offensive message through electronic means, which includes sending any information through an electronic message that is grossly offensive or has menacing character and might cause insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, etc. or sending such mail intended to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages is considered offensive.

Punishment includes imprisonment up to 3 years and with fine.

Supreme Court's observation
Section 66A is violative of Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence unconstitutional.
The court said that terms like 'illegal', 'grossly offensive' and 'menacing character' were vague expressions and these words were likely to be misunderstood and abused.

It violated the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression (under Article 19(1)(a)). Hence this Section has struck down entirely.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and Issues

  • First PIL on this issue was filed in 2012 by a law student Shreya Singhal, who sough amendment to this section, after two girls - Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan - were arrested in Palghar, 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.
  • Jadavpur University (JU) professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested by West Bengal police for sharing cartoons on CM Mamata Banerjee. Subsequently Calcutta High Court asked the state government to provide a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to A.Mahapatra.
  • An activist Aseem Trivedi was arrested for drawing cartoons which were critical of the Parliament and Constitution
  • Businessman Ravi Srinivasan was arrested for tweeting offensive remarks against the son of a politician, etc.

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