Continued Use Of Unconstitutional Section 66A IT Act: SC Assures Strict Action Against Officials, Issues Notice To Centre
The Supreme Court has issued notice in an application filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), on the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
In its petition, PUCL has submitted that more than 22 people have been prosecuted under the provision, after it was scrapped by the Apex Court in 2015. The case was argued by Advocate Sanjay Parikh, who was assisted by Advocates Sanjana Srikumar; Abhinav Sekhri; Apar Gupta and C. Ramesh Kumar, Advocate on Record.
Taking note of the seriousness of the submissions, the bench comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran asserted that the concerned officials will be arrested if its order scrapping the provision has been violated.
The court then issued notice and directed the Centre to file a counter affidavit within 4 weeks. Another week was granted for a rejoinder.
Section 66A had been dubbed as "draconian" for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping.
This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India. The court had ruled that the provision violated freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and that it did not fall under the reasonable restrictions enunciated under Article 19 (2).
The Internet Freedom Foundation had then released a paper in October last year, claiming that Section 66A continued to be used across India, despite the judgement.
The paper, co-authored by Abhinav Sekhri and Apar Gupta, had called Section 66A a "legal zombie", asserting that it haunts to Indian criminal process, despite more than three years having passed since the judgment. It had argued that this was because of deeper institutional problems which resulted in judicial decisions not reaching state actors at the ground level.
"Right from the police station, to trial courts, and all the way to High Courts, one finds that Section 66-A is still in use despite it being denied a place on the statute book," the study had said.