Abide by the SC’s verdict on Section 66A
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday said it was “shocking” and “distressing” that there was a fivefold increase in the registration of cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act though it quashed the provision in 2015. The petitioner, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), informed the court that while there were 229 cases pending in 11 states when the law was scrapped, in the next seven years, 1,307 cases were added. Section 66A authorised the police to arrest people for social media posts construed as “offensive” or “menacing”. Attorney General, KK Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the Centre, said that the section is still there in the statute, with only a footnote saying that it has been struck down, and, so, police officers fail to notice it. He suggested the section be marked as “struck down” next to where it is mentioned in the Act, and the footnote must also read that the provision does not exist anymore.
The registration of cases under the scrapped section is indeed shocking, and could not have continued without the indirect support of the State. In 2019, the SC asked the chief secretaries and director generals of police of all states and Union Territories to publicise the judgment. But the Act continued to be used to deny citizens their constitutional right of free speech.
In his dissenting judgment in the Sabarimala case, Justice Rohinton F Nariman said that it is not the judicial authorities alone that must act in the aid of the SC; all authorities, judicial and non-judicial that exercise powers over citizens, are mandated to act in the aid of the SC. The State must now abide by the letter and spirit of the SC’s order on Section 66A.
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