The Supreme Court (SC), on July 5, criticised the Union government for still booking people under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. SC called it ‘amazing and shocking’ since they had already struck down the section in March 2015.
Under Section 66A, a person accused of posting ‘offensive’ messages can face up to three years of imprisonment.
A SC bench, consisting of Justice RF Nariman, Justice KM Joseph and Justice BR Gavai, issued notice to the Centre on a plea filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties. The matter has been listed for hearing after two weeks.
”Don’t you think this is amazing and shocking? Shreya Singhal judgement is of 2015. It’s really shocking. What is going on is terrible,” the bench told the senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, who was representing PUCL.
Responding to Parikh’s argument that thousands of cases are still being registered in the country, the bench responded that they have seen those figures. “Don’t worry, we will do something.”
Attorney general, KK Venugopal, appearing for the central government, explained the reasons behind the continued usage of Section 66A after it had been scrapped.
“On perusal of the IT act, it can be seen that Section 66A features in it but in the footnote, it is written that the section has been scrapped. So, now when a police officer has to register a case, he sees the section and registers the case without going through the footnote,” said Venugopal.
Venugopal went on to suggest a solution to this problem. He said a bracket could be placed just after Section 66A clearly mentioning that it has been done away with. And, the entire extract of the verdict can be pasted in the footnote.
PUCL in its application to the SC had said that despite the court’s February 2019 order, the Section is still used in police stations and trial courts all over the country. The SC, on February 15, 2019, had directed all state governments to sensitise their police about the March 24, 2015 judgement.
Shreya Singhal, a law student, in 2012, was the first person to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the SC on the misuse of Section 66A. The PIL was filed after the arrests of two girls in Maharashtra who objected to a Shiv Sena bandh, in Mumbai, following the death of its founder Bal Thackeray. One was arrested for her Facebook post reprimanding the bandh call and the other for ‘liking’ it.