Section 66a of IT Act scraped by Supreme Court

Section 66a of it act

Section 66a of IT  Act(Information Technology Act) 2008 declared invalid by Supreme Court of India:

  • Supreme Court of India recently gave a judgement in which it declared Section 66a of IT Act as unconstitutional and invalid.
  • Section 66a of IT Act dealt generally with punishments for sending ‘offensive’ messages over Internet (includes posting on Social Media like Facebook, Twitter) .
  • Supreme court has scraped the Section 66a of IT Act on the basis of violation of citizen’s Fundamental Right of Free Speech and Expression provided under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Supreme court gave this judgement in the wake of various petitions filed to get this law quashed.

What is IT Act 2000 and IT Act 2008?

  • IT Act or the Information Technology Act 2000 (or ITA-2000) was an Act of the Indian Parliament to give legal recognition to all the business transactions carried out through Electronic means.
  • It contains detailed provision related to E-commerce in India and also issues like Cyber crimes, digital signatures etc.
  • IT Act 2000 was amended in 2008 to include certain provisions. One of which was the Section 66a.

Section 66a of IT Act 2008 – What is this?

  • Section 66a of the IT Act lays down the provision for punishing any person who sends any message that is ‘grossly offensive’ or has ‘menacing character’ through computer resource or any other electronic device such as mobiles, tablets etc.
  • The main objective of Section 66a of IT Act was to prevent misuse of Social Media.
  • According to sec 66(a) of IT Act, such person can be jailed for maximum of 3 years with a fine.
  • It means if some one posts any offensive information/post on Facebook, Twitter or any where on the Internet, such person can be punished.

Some Controversies related to Section 66a of the IT Act:

  • Two girls in Maharashtra were arrested under Section 66a of IT Act for their Facebook Post questioning the shutdown of Mumbai city for the funeral of Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray.
  • A boy from Kerela was arrested under this law for posting some comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Facebook.
  • Anti-corruption crusader and Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition for insulting National Emblems under Section 66a of IT Act.
  • A West Bengal university professor was arrested on sharing caricatures of present West Bengal C.M Mamata Banarjee on Facebook.

Why Supreme court scraped Section 66a of IT Act?

  • According to Supreme court Judgement on sec 66a of IT Act, the word ‘offensive’ is so vague that it can cover almost everything.
  • It invades the Right to Free Speech and Expression excessively.
  • The whole Act is very widely drafted which allows various interpretations by the law enforcement agencies.
  • Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution provides the Right to Free Speech and Expression whereas Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution gives the government the power to limit  this right for reasons like interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, public order,security of the state, etc.
  • Also, Section 66a of the IT Act puts lot of  restrictions (far beyond “reasonable restrictions” mentioned in the Indian Constitution by Article 19(2) ) on the Free Speech and Expression and thus violates the fundamental right of the people.
  • SC called it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”.
  • Supreme Court says that Right to Free Speech cannot be curbed even to promote general interest.

What Supreme Court has not Changed in IT Act?

  • Supreme Court upheld the power of Government of India to create several offences for Cyber-world.
  • Several petitions also wanted the Supreme court to quash Section 69 (a) and 79(3)(b). But Supreme Court refused to strike down these said sections.
  • Under Section 69(a) and 79(3)(b) of the IT Act , Government can issue blocking orders and take-down notices to websites to remove objectionable content.
  • SC thinks it is a necessary safeguard and it should not be removed.

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