SC’s notice to Centre on Section 66A of IT Act

Supreme Court has issued a notice to Centre on use of Section 66A of IT Act which was scrapped in 2015.

What is the issue?

  • SC issued notice during the hearing of plea filed by PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties). The plea pointed that even after 7 years of law being struck down, about 745 cases are still pending and active before district courts in 11 states where accused persons are being prosecuted for offences in accordance with Section 66A of IT Act.
  • Plea was filed on the basis of data collated by Internet Freedom Foundation, which was tracking cases under “Zombie provisions” which have been declared invalid but are still being used to prosecute people.
  • As per data, even after Shreya Singhal Judgment of March 2015 that struck down Section 66A, around 1307 cases were registered under it.
  • Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, informed Supreme court that statute books still carry Section 66A of IT Act which was declared unconstitutional.

What is section 66A of IT Act?

Section 66A of IT Act provides for punishment of a maximum of three years in jail and a fine on sending “offensive” messages through computer or any other communication device such as mobile phone or tablet. This section was used to punish online communication which is considered “offensive & menacing and “false to cause annoyance, inconvenience, insult, danger, obstruction, injury, hatred, criminal intimidation or ill will.”

When did SC Struck this provision?

SC had struck down this provision on March 24, 2015. SC noted the provision as “vague and arbitrary”. Section 66A was dubbed as “draconian” as it allowed arrest of several innocent persons.  It was declared unconstitutional in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case. SC noted that Section 66A invades right of free speech under article 19(1) (a) of Constitution.

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