SC issues notice to states over continued use of repealed section 66A of IT Act

Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to all states, Union territories and Registrar Generals of all High Courts over the use of the section 66A of Information Technology (IT) Act, despite it being struck down in March 2015.

Section 66A was struck down in 2015 by the Supreme Court citing that the provisions were unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. It had provision for three years’ imprisonment if a social media message caused “annoyance” or was found “grossly offensive” by a party.

In a petition filed by People Union for Civil Liberties, the bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai stated that they “will pass comprehensive order so that matter of booking people under scrapped section 66A of IT Act is settled once and for all.”

The petition stated that the steps taken by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology towards ensuring effective implementation of Supreme Court’s Judgment are ‘far from adequate’.

On July 5, Justice Nariman observed the practice “distressing”, “shocking” and “terrible”. The scrapped section was continued to be in use by police across India. “There needs to be one proper order because this cannot continue,” the bench said on Monday.

Earlier, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had written to states asking them not to register cases under section 66A and withdraw cases filed in the provision, reports The Indian Express.

“The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has requested States and Union Territories (UTs) to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It has also asked the States and UTs to sensitize law enforcement agencies for the compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court on 24.03.2015,” a statement issued by the MHA said.

According to PUCL submission, 745 cases are still pending and active before the courts in 11 states, citing a database compiled by independent researchers.

The matter has been listed for further hearing after four weeks.