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Section 66A Unconstitutional: Supreme Court

Team SoOLEGAL 18 Feb 2019 2:02pm

Section 66A Unconstitutional: Supreme Court

An application was filed by Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), regarding the continuous use of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000.

The IT Act was amended in the year 2009 and Section 66A was introduced. Under this section, a person has to undergo imprisonment for a maximum of 3 years and has to pay fine if he sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, the following:

1.      any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character;

2.      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;

3.      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.

Through the petition, the bench was noticed that more than 22 people are prosecuted under Section 66A in 2015, while it was amended in 2009.

The Supreme Court passed an order that the High Courts have to make arrangements to make available a copy of copy of the judgment, passed in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India to all the District Courts within 8 weeks.

A brief of the case:

The Apex Court was to consider some writ petitions which challenged Section 66A on the ground that it infringes the fundamental right to free speech and expression and is not saved by any of the eight subjects covered in Article 19(2). The contention of the petitioners was that causing of annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill-will are all outside the purview of Article 19(2). The bench observed that many people who were booked under this section were innocent.

The Supreme Court bench comprised of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice RF Nariman. It struck down the said section for it being in violation of Article 19(1)(a).

The observation of the Court was that the offense under Section 66A is vague and overboard. The Court, while striking down Section 66A, held:

"It takes within its sweep protected speech and speech that is innocent in nature and is liable therefore to be used in such a way as to have a chilling effect on free speech and would, therefore, have to be struck down on the ground of overbreadth.

In point of fact, Section 66A is cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it, as any serious opinion dissenting with the mores of the day would be caught within its net. Such is the reach of the Section and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total."

Tagged: supremecourt   itact   unconstitutional   section66  
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