Continued Use Of Unconstitutional Section 66A IT Act

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Section 66A of the IT Act UPSC

The Supreme Court has issued notice in an application filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), on the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. . In its petition, PUCL had submitted that more than 22 people have been prosecuted under the provision, after it was scrapped by the Apex Court in 2015.
About Section 66A:

Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.

Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—

(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,

(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,

shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Background:

Section 66A had been dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping. This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

Key Facts:

  • The court had ruled that the provision violated freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and that it did not fall under the reasonable restrictions enunciated under Article 19 (2).
  • The Internet Freedom Foundation had then released a paper in October last year, claiming that Section 66A continued to be used across India, despite the judgement.
  • The court also said that the provision, introduced in 2009 to the original Act of 2000, used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning.
  • What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another. Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

Source:Live Mint & CIS-India

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