Section 66A of IT Act

Section 66A of IT Act

Section 66A of IT Act

#GS-02 Governance

For Prelims:

About Shreya Singhal Case:

  • The Supreme court struck down Section 66A of IT Act as unconstitutional and a violation of free speech in the Shreya Singhal Case (2015).

About Section 66A:

  • The IT (amendment) Act of 2008 introduced Section 66A which gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
  • Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
  • It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
  • These provisions were declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.

For Mains:

Why was section 66A declared as unconstitutional?

  • The term “offensive” was very vague and was entirely open to interpretation.
  • The word having a very wide connotation was open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
  • It was seen as subjective, and what might have been innocuous for one person, could lead to a complaint from someone else and, consequently, an arrest arbitrarily.
  • The Supreme Court had found the police powers of Section 66A too wide with scant respect for individual liberty and free expression on the Internet.
  • However, it is a fact that the police had continued to pick out people and prosecute them under the draconian Section despite the fact that the highest court in the country had struck down the law.