SC Issues Notice Against the Use of Section 66A; Says the Continued Use Is Shocking

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In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015), it was held that “Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech” hence in the instant case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court felt the need to issue notice against the repeated use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Backstory

On 5th July 2021, an application was filed but the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking the Court to issue directions against the FIR’s that were filed under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015).

The application had also prayed to the Court to direct authorities to collect data pertaining to FIR’s that was filed by invoking Section 66A. The application had also sought for the Court to direct all the District Courts to take cognizance of the judgement in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) and issue directions to police stations to prevent form registering cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Thereafter, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Centre.

Thereon, a counter-affidavit was submitted by the Centre stating that “Police and public order are State subjects; prevention, detention, investigation and prosecution of crimes are the primary responsibility of States.” Thereafter, a rejoinder affidavit was submitted by the petitioner, PUCL.

Arguments before the Court

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In the rejoinder affidavit, the petitioner contended that “the steps taken by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology towards ensuring effective implementation of Supreme Court’s judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India are far from adequate.”

In response to the counter affidavit that was filed by the Centre, Advocate Aparna Bhat appearing for the petitioner contended that the Centre had a role in implementing the Supreme Court’s judgment. The petitioner prayed to the Court to issue directions to the High Courts, District Courts and Magistrates to take cognizance of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000; issue directions to the Director-General of Police of all States and Union territories to communicate to all police station that no case can be registered under Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 and issue directions to the Centre to collect data pertaining to the cases filed under Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Supreme Court’s Observations

The Court after considering the submissions had observed that, “there must be one proper order in this because this cannot continue.” Additionally, the Court stated that a comprehensive order would be passed so that the “matter of booking people under scrapped under Section 66A of IT ACT is settled once and for all.

Court’s Decision

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The Supreme Court issued notice to all the States, Union Territories and Registry of High Courts against the use of Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 and accordingly the matter was listed for hearing within a period of four weeks.

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