December 3, 2014 3:48:34 am
The Supreme Court Tuesday gave an ultimatum to the Centre to either clarify its stand on Information Technology Act provisions that envisaged arrest for contentious posts on social media or be ready to have such laws stayed.
The court cautioned it would make such generic provisions inoperative if the government failed to file a comprehensive affidavit and explain its stand within a week.
“Heavens are not going to fall if the provisions are stayed. This matter cannot be treated lightly. Two years have passed and there is no definite answer from you (Centre)… either you file your affidavit or we will stay the operation of these provisions,” said a bench led by Justice J Chelameswar.
The bench gave the government a week’s time to file the affidavit into a bunch of petitions that have sought declaration as unconstitutional Sections 66A and 74 of the IT Act.
Section 66A provides for maximum three-year imprisonment for sending ‘offensive’ or ‘annoying’ messages through a computer or communication device while Section 74 provides for two-year jail term for intermediaries hosting such content.
Citing the cases where arrests had been made by police over Facebook posts or messages on other social media websites, the petitions have stated that the IT Act provisions empowering police to arrest at whims trampled upon freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The court will hear the case next on December 9.
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