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Drop cases filed under Section 66A

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Drop cases filed under Section 66A: Centre:


Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the States and Union Territories to immediately withdraw the cases registered under the repealed-Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

  • This comes after the Supreme Court recently expressed shock that it was being invoked even six years after the apex court had struck it down.

 

What’s the issue?

Even after 7 years of the law being struck down, as of March 2021, a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the district courts in 11 states, wherein the accused persons are being prosecuted for offences under Section 66A of the IT Act.

 

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 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.

 

Insta Curious: 

Do you know what is Section 153A and 505 of IPC? (Related sections -could be used in substantiations) Read Here

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the Section 66A of the IT Act.
  2. Implementation.
  3. Exceptions.
  4. Why was it struck down by the Supreme Court?

Mains Link:

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.

Sources: the Hindu.