Section 66A is history

The law is an ass, wrote Charles Dickens. Thank god, we have judiciary to tame it

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | March 24, 2015


#freedom of speech   #section 66 A   #section 66 A IT act  

Our prime minister was inspired by Benjamin Franklin as a young man. While sharing his thoughts on the Republic Day, along with American president Barack Obama in his fortnightly radio address, Mann ki Baat, prime minister Narendra Modi said what inspired him about the life of the American statesman was “how a person can intelligently try to change his life”.

Well, it is indeed an inspiring quality. But Franklin is more famous for his unflinching faith in freedom of speech. In one of his writings, Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

One cannot be certain that the prime minister was aware of Franklin’s views on freedom of speech, but surely, if he would have not waited for the judiciary to finally rescue our ‘freedom of speech and expression’ on March 24, he would be known as the true admirer of the great American statesman. Modi, however, failed to act first on section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

The greatness of our democracy, however, lies in our judiciary often succeeding in restoring the dwindling faith of citizens in the state.

Striking down the draconian provision in the IT law that allowed police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet, the apex court judgment differentiated between ‘discussion, advocacy and incitement’. “Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause, howsoever unpopular, is at heart of article 19) (1) (a) (all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression), said the judgment. It went on to add, “Only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that article 19 (2) [it allows the state to make laws imposing reasonable restriction of freedom of speech and expression] kicks in.”

Discussing the difference between the three – discussion, advocacy and incitement – the apex court said at this stage, law for curtailing freedom of speech to ensure law and order could be made.

The first PIL in the case was filed by law student Shreya Singhal after two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan of Palghar in Thane district near Mumbai, were arrested in 2012. There crime? They had expressed resentment against the shutdown of Mumbai following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. While one wrote the Facebook post, the other had ‘liked’ it.

Whether what they did could be called ‘incitement’ needs little discussion. Two youngsters expressing their feelings against something what they thought to be unfair could be hardly termed as “incitement” by anyone, barring those hell-bent on crushing any differences of opinion. 

The Supreme Court said that the said section also failed two major tests – “the clear and present danger” test and the “tendency to create public disorder” test. The court observed, “In order to support a finding of clear and present danger it must be shown either that immediate serious violence was to be expected or was advocated, or that the past conduct furnished reason to believe that such advocacy was then contemplated.”

The provisions have been clearly misused by the authorities in the Thane girl’s case. There was nothing in the statement that could have indicated the probability of “immediate serious violence” nor did they have a ‘mischievous’ past that could have propelled the police to take action against them.

As the apex court pronounced the judgment, one was reminded of Mr Bumble from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. “The law is an ass,” he said.

Comments

 

Other News

Fewer and fewer parliament sittings

The winter session of parliament this year is going to be from December 15 to January 5, which will result in fewer sittings and impact legislative productivity. When parliament meets for a fewer days, it is bound to have an adverse impact on the work. The parliamentarians do get to spend mo

Indians most affected by global internet policies: Aruna Sundararajan

 People in India are most affected by global internet policies, said secretary, department of telecommunications, Aruna Sundararajan. Flagging the challenges of national governance, Sundararajan said on social media India has the largest number of users.   

Three killed as train derails in UP

Three passengers were killed and around a dozen sustained grievous injuries after nine coaches of Vasco Da Gama-Patna express derailed near Manikpur railway station in Uttar Pradesh on Friday morning. Similarly, 14 wagons of a goods train also jumped off the track near Cuttack in Odisha. 

Should Patidars of Gujarat be given reservation?

Should Patidars of Gujarat be given reservation?

Job market is currently experiencing structural change: Nathan

SV Nathan, partner and chief talent officer, Deloitte India spoke to Praggya Guptaa about the current job market situation and the upcoming opportunities in India. How would you assess the job market situation in India? If you look at the economy today

Are we seriously fighting malnutrition?

It did not surprise me when the India: health of the nation’s states, the India state-level disease burden initiative report released recently reported malnutrition the prime risk factor driving the most deaths and disability in Madhya Pradesh. Even in 1990 malnutrition was the frontrunner and after



Video

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter