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Friday, July 30, 2021

Stop filing cases under scrapped section of IT Act: Centre to states

States have been told to withdraw any such case that has been filed.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: July 15, 2021 5:58:57 am
66A, IT Act, Supreme CourtSection 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing”. (Express illustration)

DAYS AFTER the Supreme Court expressed displeasure over the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which it had struck down in 2015, the Centre has written to states, asking them not to register cases under the repealed provision and withdraw any such case that may have been filed.

“The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has requested States and Union Territories (UTs) to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It has also asked the States and UTs to sensitize law enforcement agencies for the compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court on 24.03.2015,” a statement issued by the MHA said.

“The MHA has also requested 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if any case has been booked in States and UTs under Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, such cases should be immediately withdrawn,” the statement said.

The advisory reminded the states that in its judgment on March 23, 2015, in the matter of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court had struck down the provision.

On July 5, responding to a petition filed by NGO PUCL, a bench of Justices R F Nariman, K M Joseph and B R Gavai had expressed shock that cases were still being filed by law enforcement agencies under the Section and had asked the Centre to file a counter affidavit.

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 and inconvenience among others. It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through computer or any other communication device such as a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.

The 2015 judgment had expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet, and called Section 66A “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”.

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