Ghost of Section 66A

Source: Indian Express 

Relevance:  Laws that are declared unconstitutional by the judiciary, are still in use. Policy measures are required to ensure the proper implementation of orders.

Synopsis:

The Supreme Court’s criticism and the Centre’s note underline the letter of Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act. Now the challenge is to implement it in spirit.

Background:

Read moreDisable unconstitutional sections

About Section 66A:
  • It was introduced as an amendment to the Information Technology Act in 2008.
  • It gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
Why was it struck down?
  • The SC in the Shreya Singhal Case deduced that Section 66A was arbitrarily, excessively, and disproportionately invades the right of free speech.
  • It was drafted so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it. Thus, upholding its validity would create a chilling effect on free speech in the country.
Reasons behind continued persecutions under Section 66A:
  • The gap between the court’s judgment and the pile of Section 66A cases is, perhaps, explained by a political climate. Free speech, dissent, and legitimate criticism are being seen in bad faith.
  • Further, the existing laws are wielded as weapons to arrest journalists and citizens for a tweet or a slogan, or a Facebook post.
Suggestions:
  • Early this month, the Supreme Court bench hearing the plea was moved to seek a response from the Centre on what it called a “shocking state of affairs”
  • The Centre has written to state governments, asking them to pass on the memo to the police force and withdraw all cases under Section 66A.
  • The Centre’s note to the states is a positive step, but regular monitoring is the only way to ensure that the law is implemented in letter and spirit.
Print Friendly and PDF