‘Amazing, shocking’: Supreme Court on use of Section 66A despite being struck down
The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre giving it two weeks to respond on the issue of Section 66A.
The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Union government over people still being booked under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, calling it "amazing and shocking." In March 2015, Section 66A was struck down by the top court.
"Don't you think this is amazing and shocking? Shreya Singhal judgment is of 2015. It's really shocking. What is going on is terrible," a bench, comprising Supreme Court Justice RF Nariman, Justice KM Joseph and Justice BR Gavai, told senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, who appeared for NGO People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The Supreme Court, which was hearing an application filed by PUCL, issued a notice to the Centre and listed the matter for hearing after two weeks.
Appearing for the central government, attorney general KK Venugopal sought to explain why Section 66A is still being used despite being scrapped. "On perusal of the IT act, it can be seen that Section 66A features in it but in the footnote, it is written that the section has been scrapped. So, now when a police officer has to register a case, he sees the section and registers the case without going through the footnote," Venugopal said. On a possible solution, he said what can be done is placing a bracket after Section 66A mentioning it has been scrapped and put the entire extract of the verdict in the footnote.
PUCL said in its application in the Supreme Court that despite the court's February 2019 order, the section continues to be used in police stations as well as in trial courts across the country. On February 15, 2019, the top court directed all state governments to sensitise their police personnel about the March 24, 2015, judgement.
In 2012, law student Shreya Singhal filed the first PIL in the Supreme Court on the misuse of Section 66A. The PIL was filed following arrests of two girls in Maharashtra who objected to a bandh called in Mumbai by the Shiv Sena after the demise of its founder Bal Thackeray. While one was arrested for posting a Facebook post against the bandh call, the other was held for "liking" it.
Under Section 66A, a person posting "offensive" messages faces imprisonment for up to three years as well as a fine.
(With PTI inputs)