Section 66A is still being used, SC seeks Centre’s response.

Over three years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Monday registered shock to hear that authorities still continue to book people under the now extinct and draconian provision.

A Bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, who wrote the judgment in March 2015 upholding online free speech against Section 66A, said “strict action” would follow if the claims in the petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) are found true. The court ordered the Centre to respond to the petition in four weeks.


The PUCL said Section 66A, which was termed “unconstitutionally vague” and restricted free expression online, continues to survive and occasionally finds a place in the FIRs registered by the police in complete contravention of the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.

The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The entire provision was struck down by the court.

“Despite the clear and unequivocal holding of this court in Shreya Singhal, Section 66A of the IT Act continues to be applied in the legal system,” the petition said.

It said a recent working paper by the Internet Freedom Foundation demonstrates that pending prosecutions under Section 66A has not been terminated, and further that it continues to be invoked by police across India in FIRs registered after the 2015 judgment.

The petition said there has been a huge communication gap at the ground level, many officials may even not know about the Supreme Court verdict.

It said that trial courts and prosecutors are not actively implementing the verdict and the burden of terminating illegal prosecutions based on Section 66A falls on the accused persons.

“Thus, compliance with the Constitution has been made primarily dependent on the means of individual accused persons, potentially rendering justice beyond the reach of accused persons without means to afford quality legal counsel… It is humbly submitted that the harm emanating from this state of affairs is enormous,” the petition said.

These unwarranted prosecutions amounts to wastage of precious public resources in a criminal justice system which is already reeling under heavy pendency.

The petition urged the court to direct Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories and Director Generals of Police to circulate or inform police stations and officials about the March 2015 verdict. In turn, the State high courts should bring the judgment to the notice of district

courts within their jurisdiction to prevent failures of justice(Source: The Hindu)

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