Supreme Court of India has scrapped Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that allows arrests of a person who upload objectionable content online.
The court observed that Section 66A is violating fundamental freedom given in Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence it is unconstitutional. The bench further said that Section 66A of the IT Act directly voilating public’s right to get information and hence affects Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in the Constitution.
The court, however, declined to strike down two other provisions of the IT Act that allow blocking of sites if their content had the potential to create communal disturbance and social disorder, or affect the country’s foreign relationships.
On 26 February, a bench of justices J Chelameswar and RF Nariman had said that section 66A of the Information Technology Act could not be quashed merely because of the possibility of its abuse. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that the government did not wish to curtail freedom of speech and expression, but the vast cyber world could not be allowed to remain unregulated.
The Centre justified the Sec. 66 of IT Act by telling the apex court that the impact of the internet was much wider than print and TV. Unlike print and electronic media, the internet did not operate in an institutional form and there was need for some mechanism to put checks and balances.
Shreya Singhal , a law student filed first PIL in 2012 , who sought an amendment to Section 66A of the Act, after two girls Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan had been arrested in Palghar in Thane district for decrying the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death.
The apex court had on 16 May 2013 come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like IG or DCP.
The advisory had come in the wake of numerous complaints of harassment and arrests, sparking public outrage. However, the SC did not pass an interim order for banning on the arrest of such persons across the country.