Section 66A gone: How ‘dumb’ once spelt trouble, and repeal now spells relief

  • HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 25, 2015 11:33 IST

For two years, Delhi resident Varinder Kumar Arora faced “utter harassment” under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act at Chandigarh, all because he had called his former business associate “dumb” in an email to some people. As the Supreme Court struck down the relevant section, terming it unconstitutional, on Tuesday, he recalled his woes.

It was in 2012 that, for sending an email against a public relations firm owner based in Sector 38, Kumar was booked. In October last year, the police filed a closure report. After the SC verdict, he recalled how the police had failed to file a chargesheet against him, and had also advised the complainant to withdraw the case.

“The police used to ask me that I should admit my ‘mistake’ in the court; but I said using the word ‘dumb’ should be no legal offence,” he claimed.

He added, “With my experience, I felt that Section 66A of IT Act had been used for settling personal and professional rivalry.”

The section dealt with punishment for sending “grossly offensive” messages through communication services. The SC struck it down by calling it “vague” in character and thus prone to misuse.

Meanwhile, the Chandigarh police said they had registered only three cases solely under section 66A ever since it came into being in 2008, as an addition to IT Act, 2000.

But there are a large number of cases wherein the section has been used along with other legal provisions.

Panchkula police use quashed law!

Panchkula: On the day when the Supreme Court quashed section 66A of the IT Act after terming it unconstitutional, the police here booked four persons for betting and imposed the section 66A too on them.

On the basis of a tip-off, said the police, Solan residents Naresh Kumar, Jitendra Sahni, Sumit and Rohit were arrested for allegedly betting on the World Cup cricket semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand. The police also seized around `37,000, five mobile phones and a TV from them.

But, besides registering the case under the anti-gambling law and for cheating under the Indian Penal Code, the police also imposed section 66A of IT Act.

When contacted, district attorney APS Parmar opined on the matter: “I will have to study the order for a detailed comment. But the police could not have used it today since the section stands quashed now.”

The Pinjore police station house officer, inspector Satish Kumar, who registered the case, when asked about it, said he would “re-look into the case”.

Cops say

Senior superintendent of police Sukhchain Singh Gill said some cases would be affected by the SC judgment, “but we have to go through the order before reaching any conclusion, case by case.”

In SAS Nagar, too, SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said they would examine the judgment and ensure compliance. Deputy inspector general (DIG) Nirlabh Kishore, in-charge of the Punjab cyber crime cell, said, “We have to find out how many cases were registered only under 66A. In other cases where it’s been used additionally, we will see how to pursue under the remaining charges.”

Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, deputy inspector general of police at Jalandhar, and earlier in-charge of the Punjab cyber cell, opined, “We welcome the apex court judgment, but I feel that most of the cases under section 66A were about abusing and harassing girls through online methods. That is increasing day by day. We hope there will be an alternative arrangement to stop that now.”

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