SC quashes Section 66A, says it curbs freedom of speech
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 holding that it was violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression.
“Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety…,” said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman.
“Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law (Section 66A) is vague in its entirety,” said Justice Nariman pronouncing the judgment.
“There is no nexus between public order and discussion or causing annoyance by dissemination of information. Curbs under Section 66A of the IT Act infringes on the public right to know.”
The apex court order came on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of 66A of the IT Act on the grounds of its vague and ambiguous and was being misused by the law enforcing authorities.
The court was moved by one Shreya Singhal in 2012 following the arrest of two girls — Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — for posting comments critical of the Mumbai shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
The hearing saw NGOs Common Cause, People Union for Civil Liberty and individuals including self-exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen joining the challenge which saw a repeat hearing after an earlier hearing by a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S.A. Bobde remained inconclusive.
Section 66A reads: “Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”
The central government defended section 66A, taking the stand that the provisions in no way intended to curb the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under article 19 of the Constitution. At the same time, it said the enormous cyber world could not be left unregulated.