Distressing’ and ‘shocking’ that people are still tried under Section 66A of IT Act, says SC

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has expressed shock at the practice of police registering FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The act was struck down by the SC in the 2015 judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.

What is the issue?
  • A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The petition seeks various directions and guidelines against the FIRs under the struck-down provision of Section 66A.
  • The plea has stated that as many as a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the District Courts in 11 States under 66A of the IT Act.
  • Moreover, Section 66A has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across India.
What has the Supreme Court said?
  • The Supreme Court has termed the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as a shocking state of affairs and sought a response from the Centre.

About Section 66A:

  • Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet.
  • A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
What were the issues with the Act?
  • The vagueness about what is “offensive”. The word has a very wide connotation and is open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
  • Hence, it was subjective and what may be fine for one person, may lead to a complaint from someone else. Consequently, an arrest under Section 66A if the police prima facie accepts the latter person’s view.

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