Social media triumphs: SC quashes draconian Section 66A of IT Act

Numerous cases of harassment and arrests because of messages posted on social media

GN Bureau | March 24, 2015


#Supreme Court   #section66a   #IT Act   #social media   #offensive message   #content  


Supreme Court has struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and termed it as unconstitutional as it is violative of Article 19(1)(a). A bench of justices J Chelameswar and R F Nariman, which had on February 26 reserved the judgement, said it encroaches upon "the public's right to know." The law under Section 66A imposes punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, which seems retrograde in the digital age.  Maximum jail term under the law is three years.

What is Section 66A of IT act

The Information Technology Act 2000 was amended in the year 2008. This amended act contains the much debated 66A section. It imposes punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service.

Read More: Social media harassment and Indian cyber law



It applies to cases wherein:
a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device, (c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.

Read from our archives: Bad in law

 


Genesis of the case
The apex court had on May 16, 2013, come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers.

The direction was issued in the wake of numerous complaints of harassment and arrests, sparking public outrage. It had, however, refused to pass an interim order for a blanket ban on the arrest of such persons across the country.

The court asked centre in December last year to clarify stand on the provisions that ensues arrest or be ready for such laws to be stayed.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that the Government did not want to curtail the freedom of speech and expression at all which is enshrined in the Constitution, but the vast cyber world could not be allowed to remain unregulated.

However, the court had said that terms like 'illegal', 'grossly offensive' and 'menacing character' were vague expressions and these words were likely to be misunderstood and abused. 

Here is the full text of the judgement: Click Here

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