The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has requested States and Union Territories (UTs) to direct all police stations not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
About the Section 66A of the IT Act
- It was introduced by the UPA government in 2008.
- This gave power to the government to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
- The main objective behind the law was to prevent the misuse of information technology, particularly through social media.
- Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over an “offensive” or “menacing” or to cause annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
- Police may decide the offense in terms of their subjective discretion.
- It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
- In 2015, the apex court struck down the sedition law in the landmark case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.
- It called it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”.
- The main objective behind the 2008 amendment was to prevent the misuse of information technology, particularly through social media, the petitioners argued that Section 66A came with extremely wide parameters, which allowed whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies.
Criticism of the law
- Section 66A came with extremely wide parameters, which allowed whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies.
- The main problem was that the word “offensive” was vague. The word was open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
- Six years after the struck down of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Supreme Court termed its continued use by law enforcement agencies of various states as “a shocking state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.
2015 Court’s Ruling
- On March 24, 2015, SC declared, Section 66A as unconstitutional for “being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).”
- Article 19(1)(a) gives people the right to speech and expression whereas 19(2) accords the state the power to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of this right.