A Metropolitan Magistrate Court recently issued a judicial process against filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma under Section 66 A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, a section held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in March last year.
Varma was accused of sending out offensive tweets during Ganesh immersion in 2014. The court observed that his comments on Lord Ganesh on Twitter could hurt religious feelings.
The court said, “After going through verification statement and the inquiry made by the Cyber Cell of Mumbai Police Crime Branch, I hold that the complainant had prima facie made out a case against the accused.” It, therefore, took cognisance of the complaint and issued summons to Varma under Section 295 (a) and 505 of the Indian Penal Code and 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act while posting the next hearing on July 19.
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While Section 295 (A) of the IPC talks of “deliberate” and “malicious” acts, intended to outrage religious feelings, Section 505 concerns statements conducing to public mischief.
The outlawed Section 66 (A) of the IT Act, on the other hand, dealt with offensive messages through communication services and punished those who sent messages “by means of a computer resource or a communication device”.
While upholding the Right to Freedom of speech on internet, the SC had observed that Section 66 A of the IT Act could not be seen as a “reasonable restriction” on an individual’s right to speech and expression.
The Magistrate Court’s order, besides summoning the filmmaker under IPC provisions, seems to have booked him under a law, struck down in the statute books.