The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recently asked the States and Union Territories (UTs) to immediately withdraw the cases registered under the repealed-Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- This came after the Supreme Court (SC) recently expressed shock that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 was being invoked even six years after the apex court had struck it down.
- The Supreme Court has taken a very serious view of the matter.
- MHA has asked states and UTs to sensitize law enforcement agencies for compliance with orders issued by Supreme Court on March 24, 2015.
- The Government has also directed that if any case has been booked in States and UTs under section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, such cases should be immediately withdrawn.
What’s the issue?
- The SC recently issued a notice to the central government while hearing the plea filed by PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) in which Plea mentioned that even after 7 years of the law being struck down, 745 cases are pending and active before district courts in 11 states in which accused persons are being prosecuted for offenses under Section 66A of IT Act.
- The plea was filed after data was collated by Internet Freedom Foundation, which was tracking cases under “Zombie provisions”.
- As per data, even after March 2015, around 1307 cases were registered under it.
- Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, informed in Supreme court that statute books still carry Section 66A of IT Act even though it was declared unconstitutional.
- The Supreme Court had struck down section 66A on March 24, 2015, after noting it as “vague and arbitrary”.
- It was dubbed as “draconian” because it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons.
- The SC in its judgment on 24.03.2015 in the matter of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India had declared it unconstitutional.
- This made Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 null and void with effect from the date of the order, therefore 24.03.2015 and hence no action could be taken under this section.
What is section 66A of IT Act?
- Section 66A of the IT Act provided for the punishment of a maximum of three years in jail and a fine to a person accused of sending “offensive” messages using the computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or tablet.
- This section was used to punish online communications which are considered “offensive & menacing and false to cause annoyance, inconvenience, insult, danger, injury, hatred, criminal intimidation or ill will.”