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Section 66A of the Information Technology Act

Topics Covered: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security.

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act:


Context:

The Centre has said that the Ministries of Information and Technology and Home Affairs had done their best to disseminate knowledge about the Supreme Court judgment in Shreya Singhal case on Section 66A. Despite this, many cases have been registered under this section.

The Centre has made the following observations:

  1. Since the police and public order were “State subjects” under the Constitution, the onus lies with the states to implement the apex court’s 2015 judgment quashing the ‘draconian’ section 66A of Information and Technology Act.
  2. Law enforcement agencies share equal responsibility to comply with the apex court judgment. They take action against cyber crime offenders as per the law.

 

What has happened?

On July 5, the Supreme Court had expressed shock and dismay over police continuing to register cases under section 66A despite it being quashed six years ago.

  • 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.

 

What is Section 66A?

  • 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.
  • It empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.

 

Why did SC strike 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.

 

Insta Curious: 

Do you know about ‘ Doctrine of Revival’? Read Here

 

InstaLinks:

  1. About Section 66A of the IT Act.
  2. About Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
  3. Shreya Singhal case is related to?

Mains Link:

Discuss why Section 66A of the IT Act was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Sources: the Hindu.