Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Section 66A of the IT Act

Are you Ready for Insta 75 Days Revision Plan (UPSC Prelims - 2020)?

Topics covered:

  1. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  2. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Section 66A of the IT Act

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key facts on Section 66A of the IT Act.
  • For Mains: Why the Court struck down this provision, issues associated and issues over implementation of Court’s order.

 

Context: The Supreme Court has issued notice in an application filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), on the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. In its petition, PUCL had submitted that more than 22 people have been prosecuted under the provision, after it was scrapped by the Apex Court in 2015.

 

Background:

Section 66A had been dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping. This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

 

Why SC struck down section 66A?

The SC had noted that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.

The court also said that the provision, introduced in 2009 to the original Act of 2000, used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning. “What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another. Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

 

What is Section 66A all about?

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.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Critically discuss why the Supreme Court of India held the Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act unconstitutional? Examine the constitutional and commercial implications of this judgement.