section-66a-of-the-information-technology-act

In Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, Supreme Court declared section 66A of IT Act, 2000 as unconstitutional. The court ruled that the speech howsoever offensive, annoying or inconvenient cannot be prosecuted unless its utterance has, at the least, a proximate connection with any incitement or disruption in public order.  

Section 66A

  • Section 66A defined the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction fetched a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
  Arguments in favor of deletion of  Section 66A of IT Act, 2000
  1. It violated the Fundamental Right of freedom to speech and expression guaranteed by our Constitution under 19 (1)(A). 2. It had many terms vaguely defined like menacing, known to be false, etc. which leave much space for misinterpretation. 3. It outlawed all political satire, cartoons, caricatures, and spoof writing.  4. Various examples of the application of this law exist like Aseem Trivedi arrest, the arrest of Girls in Maharashtra, etc. which paints a gruesome picture where social media is not clearly demarcated into private and public spaces. 5. All social media, private messages, emails, tweets, and chats fall under its ambit. So the government has huge snooping power.
 

TK Vishwanathan Committee

The committee was formed after the Supreme Court struck down section 66A of the Information Technology Act.  

Suggestions made by the committee:

  • Section 78 of the IT Act needs to be substituted and Section 153 and 505A of the Indian Penal Code need to be amended.
  • Section 78 primarily dealt with capacity building and needs to be relooked at with a view to sensitize law enforcement agency officers. However, under it, a police officer of the rank of inspector or the above was empowered to investigate offenses.
  • Each state should have a State Cyber Crime Coordinator which should be an officer not below the rank of Inspector General of Police.
  • Each district to have a District Cyber Crime Cell headed by an officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector.

Question

  • Discuss Section 66A of IT Act, with reference to the alleged violation of Article 19 of the Constitution. (250 Words)
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