Monday, July 4News That Matters

Abuse of ‘dead’ Section 66A: SC issues notice to states, UTs on PUCL’s plea

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 2

As police continue to book people under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act which was declared unconstitutional by it in 2015, the Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to all states, union territories, and registrar generals of high courts on a petition filed by PUCL highlighting the problem.

“Police is a state subject. We will issue notice and pass comprehensive orders. This can’t continue,” a Bench led by Justice Nariman said, listing the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The order came after the Centre submitted that after Section 66A was declared unconstitutional, it was for the states to ensure that cases were not filed under the provision.

On behalf of petitioner People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), senior advocate Sanjay Parikh said there are two aspects: the police and the judiciary.

“We have given detailed suggestions. The Centre has issued directions to the state DGPs. Instructions also need to go to the judiciary,” Parikh submitted.

Acting on a PIL filed by Shreya Singhal, the Supreme Court had on March 24 declared unconstitutional Section 66A of IT Act, which gave sweeping powers to the police to arrest people for posting “annoying” or “offensive” comments online. The provision prescribed a maximum three-year imprisonment for posting offensive and annoying messages on computer-like devices.

The Supreme Court had on July 5 expressed shock and surprise at police invoking Section 66A of the Information Technology Act which was declared unconstitutional by it more than six years ago.

“Don’t you think this is amazing and shocking? Shreya Singhal judgement is of 2015… It’s really shocking. What’s going on is terrible,” the Bench had told Parikh.

Parikh had pointed out that despite express directions issued by the court in 2019 that all state governments should sensitise police personnel about the judgement, thousands of cases had been registered under the scrapped provision.

The court had passed certain directions on in February 2019 to ensure that the dead provision wasn’t misused against people. It had directed that copies of the judgment of this Court in Shreya Singhal should remain available with every High Court as well as all the District Courts and that the police departments in the entire country i.e. all states and UTs be sensitized about the said judgment, the facts mentioned above show that not only the investigations under Section 66A by the police are continuing but even in the trial courts.

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