Govt directs to withdraw FIRs under Sec 66A of IT Act

Central Government has directed all states and Union Territories to ask police stations under their jurisdiction to withdraw FIRs registered under Section 66 of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Key Points

  • Government also directed not to register cases under repealed Section 66A.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also asked states and UTs to sensitise law enforcement agencies for compliance of order issued by Supreme Court on March 24, 2015.

What is section 66A of IT Act?

Section 66A of IT Act provided for punishment of a maximum of three years in jail and a fine to a person accused of sending “offensive” messages using computer or any other communication device like mobile phone or tablet. This section was used to punish online communications which are considered “offensive & menacing and false to cause annoyance, inconvenience, insult, danger, injury, hatred, criminal intimidation or ill will.”

When did SC Struck this provision?

SC had struck down section 66A on March 24, 2015 after noting it as “vague and arbitrary”. It was dubbed as “draconian” because it allowed arrest of several innocent persons.  It was declared unconstitutional in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case on March 24, 2015.

Recent plea in SC

Recently, SC issued notice to central government while hearing plea filed by PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties). Plea mentioned that even after 7 years of law being struck down, 745 cases are pending and active before district courts in 11 states in which accused persons are being prosecuted for offences under Section 66A of IT Act. Plea was filed after data collated by Internet Freedom Foundation, which was tracking cases under “Zombie provisions”. As per data, even after of March 2015, around 1307 cases were registered under it. Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, informed in Supreme court that statute books still carry Section 66A of IT Act even though it was declared unconstitutional.

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