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"This Cannot Continue"- Supreme Court Issues Notice To States, UTs, High Court Registrars On Plea Against Continued Use Of 66A IT Act

Srishti Ojha
2 Aug 2021 6:20 AM GMT
This Cannot Continue- Supreme Court Issues Notice To States, UTs, High Court Registrars On Plea Against Continued Use Of 66A IT Act
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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to States, Union Territories and Registrar of High Courts in a plea filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking various directions and guidelines against the FIRs under provision of Section 66A struck down by Shreya Singhal case judgement."As this matter pertains to not only the courts but the police has well, in fitness of things, notice...

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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to States, Union Territories and Registrar of High Courts in a plea filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking various directions and guidelines against the FIRs under provision of Section 66A struck down by Shreya Singhal case judgement.

"As this matter pertains to not only the courts but the police has well, in fitness of things, notice be issued to all States & UTs and Registrar of High Courts. This be done within period of 4 weeks from today. Registry to enclose present set of pleadings when notice is issued," the Bench said.

A Bench comprising Justice RF Nariman and Justice BR Gavai during the hearing asked Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appearing for the petitioner to make States also parties so the Court could make a 'comprehensive proper order'. The Bench reasoned that this was because Police is ultimately a State subject.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appearing for petitioner submitted that while one position is about police, the other one is about Judiciary.

"Judiciary, that we can take care of separately but Police is also there in this instance. There must be one proper order in this because this cannot continue" , the Bench said. 

Supreme Court had on July 5th issued notice while expressing shock at the practice of police registering FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which was struck down by the top court in the 2015 judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.

In response to Court's order, Centre in its counter affidavit submitted that Police and Police order being state subjects, the primary responsibility to ensure implementation of Shreya Singhal's judgement which had struck down Section 66 A of the IT Act lies with the State. Further, the law enforcement agencies also share equal responsibility to implement the judgement.

In its rejoinder affidavit, the PUCL submitted before the top Court that the Steps taken by Centre towards ensuring effective implementation of Supreme Court's Judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India are far from adequate'.

The PUCL has filed the plea seeking directions to the Union of India to collect data of all FIRs registered invoking Section 66 A of the IT Act struck down by Supreme Court in the case of Shreya Singhal vs Union of India.

The NGO is seeking directions to Union of India through the NCRB or any other agency, to collect all the data and information regarding FIRs and investigations where Section 66A has been invoked.

Further, data has also been sought of the pendency of cases in the District Courts and High Courts throughout the country where proceedings under Section 66A are continuing in violation of the judgment in Shreya Singhal's case.

The plea has sought directions to the Registry of the Supreme Court to communicate to all the District Courts throughout the country to take cognizance of the judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, in all proceedings where Section 66A has been invoked either at the stage of framing of charge or subsequent thereto, so that no person should suffer or face any adverse consequences which violate his Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Further, directions have been sought to the Supreme Court's Registry to communicate to all the High Courts (through its Registrar) to collect the information from all the District Courts within its jurisdiction regarding pendency of cases under Section 66A at different stages and issue directions for due compliance of judgment of the top Court in Shreya Singhal.

The plea filed through Advocate Aparna Bhat and settled by Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh has also sought directions to the Union of India through its Ministry of Home Affairs to issue an advisory to all the police stations not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

Further, the petitioner has sought directions to Union of India to publish in all leading news papers, both English and in the official vernacular informing the general public that section 66A of the Information Technology Act having been struck down by the Court is no longer law.

The Shreya Singhal judgment was delivered by a bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and RF Nariman striking down Section 66A as violative of Articles 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The judgment authored by Justice Nariman held the provision to be vague, overboard and creating a chilling effect on free speech.

"It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right. The Section is unconstitutional also on the ground that it takes within its sweep protected speech and speech that is innocent in nature and is liable therefore to be used in such a way as to have a chilling effect on free speech and would, therefore, have to be struck down on the ground of overbreadth", Justice Nariman observed in the judgment.
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