Apex Court to decide what is “grossly offensive” in relation to 66A of IT Act

Apex Court to decide what is “grossly offensive” in relation to 66A of IT Act

While hearing the petitions in relation to Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 the Supreme Court today said, “What is grossly offensive to you, may not be grossly offensive to me and it is a vague term. We are only examining the term grossly offensive. Central governments come and go but Section 66A (of the Information Technology Act) remains forever.”

The much criticized Section 66A was the reason behind a number of arbitrary arrests in relation to content being put over social media. It includes the arrest of two girls who had made comments on Mumbai shutdown after the death of Balasaheb Thackeray.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted to the bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Rohinton F Nariman that “We are reconsidering the whole issue with respect to freedom of speech and expression. Nothing is grossly offensive unless it invites violence.” He also said, “It is the case of the central government that Section 66A which uses expressions like causing ‘annoyance’, ‘inconvenience’, ‘obstruction’ etc essentially and mainly to deal with cyber crimes and has no relation with the freedom of speech and expression of any citizen.”

He submitted that the Government does not support any law that offends the right to freedom of speech and expression. In his submissions, the ASG also credited the media and said, “Nowadays with the proactive role of media and administrative authorities, whenever there is an aberration and which comes to the attention of the country, action is taken accordingly. This is not a ground for excuse but possible abuse is likely to be minimum in such a scenario.”

The Apex Court is now all set to examine the term “grossly offensive” that appears in the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

You may read more of our coverage on Section 66A here.