Supreme Court has expressed disappointment over continued usage of Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000. even after 6 years of its judgment to strike it off.
The Supreme Court had given a landmark judgment in what is known as Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India, which struck off section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000.
The central government has asked states to withdraw all cases filed under Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 and also not register such cases in future.
The Supreme Court had given a landmark judgment in 2015 to remove the unconstitutional and vague provisions under the Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000.
Provisions under section 66A
The provisions allowed the government to arrest an individual for online posts that are maligning and offensive. It was introduced in 2008.
The police were given powers to arrest based on their discretion. There were no clear cut guidelines for using these provisions as it was subjective.
The provisions specified that messages sent through digital devices such as mobiles, computers and tablets could be punished with a maximum term of 3 years.
The word ‘offensive’ was used in the law. There was no clear definition of what could qualify as ‘offensive’. It was open to interpretation and misuse.
It was seen as subjective, which allowed individuals to be targeted based on the interpretation by another person.
Shreya Singhal case
The issue came to notice of Supreme Court when two girls were arrested in Maharashtra for critiquing shutdown of Mumbai for funeral of Balasaheb Thackeray.
A law student, Shreya Singhal had filed a case in Supreme Court opposing the provisions under the law. Further petitions were filed by other affected individuals.
Grounds for challenge
The law was made to prevent misuse of digital platforms to spread hate and malign image of people. It was however wide for misinterpretations.
Petitioners had argued that the law was used for choking free speech through online platforms. It was said to be a tool to curtail freedom of expression.
Supreme Court decision
A bench of Supreme Court said that Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 was unconstitutional for violating Article 19(1) (A) and Article 19(2).
The court also made key rules for partnership between social media platforms and government under Section 79.