Tomorrow, you may be at receiving end

Section 66A aims to criminalise any kind of speech which appears “grossly offensive” or “annoying” or inconvenient” to someone.

These are matters of highly subjective evaluation. And on the subjective whim of and sensibilities of another person, you could be sent to prison. Assume a situation where you post a status update on Facebook or  upload a tweet suggesting that your local shop owner has caused you grave inconvenience by refusing home delivery of your kirana goods.

He can claim that he finds it an “annoyance” that you spoke brashly of him. He could also potentially have you arrested under Section 66A of the IT Act merely because you chose to express yourself on the internet.

Something he could not have done otherwise had you expressed yourself offline. That is exactly how draconian the law is. Criminal law was never meant to be this broad or imprecise. This law forces us to be unnaturally civil. Any opposition to it deserves the unwavering support of one and all. Yesterday, it was two innocent girls in Palghar. Tomorrow it could be you.

Nikhil is an advocate with the Supreme Court of India


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