In a remarkable move to provide fair and freedom of speech and expression, Supreme Court strikes down the controversial Section 66A of Information Technology Act. The act provided power to arrest a person for posting allegedly “offensive” content online.
Quashing the act, Justice RF Nariman reads out the judgment, “Section 66A is unconstitutional and we have no hesitation in striking it down.” “The public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A,” he added.
In 2012, two young women Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan were arrested for posting comments critical of the total shutdown in Mumbai after the demise of the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Following the arrest, the law was challenged for the first time by a law student named Shreya Singhal. The group that challenged the law in the Supreme Court later expanded to include the NGO Common Cause and Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
“Under Section 66A, you cannot be jailed anymore because the section stands invalid. I am not advocating the defamation of someone, but there are other provisions in the IPC, that ensure that hate speeches are dealt with. However, there is no blanket provision that will curtail your freedom of speech. No one should fear putting something up online anymore,” said petitioner Ms. Singhal, after the court judgment.
The court, however, allowed the government authority to block websites or online contents if their contents had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries.