Government admits that S. 66 A is prone to abuse, Supreme Court says the Section lacks guidelines
“Section 66A does not give any specific guidance on when to invoke it, unlike the provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The IPC uses specific words and gives specific illustrations for the offences but that does not appear to be the case with Section 66A. It appears that nobody has to even say anything hateful or meaning ill will… annoyance of someone could be used to invoke it,” said the Supreme Court while hearing a matter in relation to S. 66A of the IT Act.
Reportedly, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also admitted the abuse use of the provision at times. He also submitted that action was taken against the police officials who had abused the same.
Section 66A of the IT Act states,
“66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.,
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character;
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Explanation: For the purposes of this section, terms "electronic mail" and "electronic mail message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.”
However, the Court reportedly said, “If there is abuse and the abuse is so egregious, even in some cases, there is definitely an issue to be heard and decided regarding the validity of such a provision.”
Appearing for the Petitioners, Senior Advocates Soli Sorabjee, Prashant Bhushan and Sanjay Parikh submitted to the Court that IPC was enough to deal with offences mentioned under the impugned provision. The Court had posed a question whether the Penal Code was insufficient to deal with the offences arising out of electronic messages. The Counsel(s) for the Petitioners also submitted that IPC was well drafted and explained the circumstances in which it can be applied. It was also submitted that 66A is vague and its application is very much based upon discretion.
However, the Bench consisting of Justices J Chelameswar and S A Bobde did say that the word “offensive” is capable of different interpretation by different persons. The case will now be heard on Wednesday.