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Current Affairs

Shreya Singhal case

Date: 22 July 2021 Tags: Judiciary & Judgments

Issue

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.

 

Background

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.

 

Details

  • 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.

 

Criticism

  • 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.