Saturday, June 19, 2021
HomeEditorialHail SC for striking down ‘Section 66A’

Hail SC for striking down ‘Section 66A’

Supreme Court strikes down Section 66A of IT Act which approved arrests for distasteful content online. The Supreme Court affirmed Section 66A of Information Technology Act as unconstitutional and struck it down. The government had said the provision could not be quashed just because of its potential misuse. Posting pictures and comments on social networking sites which hurt religious sentiments could not be tolerated and people must be prosecuted. The government would have used these crazy laws to harass innocent people and writers. India is becoming a joke of a democracy these days with its dim-witted and lunatic leaders trying to stifle democratic principles.

Section 66 (A), which prohibits the sending of information of a “grossly offensive” or “menacing” nature through computers and communication devices, has been used by several states to arrest people over posts on social media that officials claimed were “seditious”, “communally sensitive” or abusive. Most of the recent arrests were for posting controversial remarks or photos, while some were for sharing, commenting on or liking such posts. In one case in Jammu and Kashmir, a person was arrested merely for being tagged to a post on social media.

If you remember the most recent victim – a Mumbai based standup comedy group “All India Bakchod” was forced by a flurry of FIRs and PILs to withdraw the video of a roast. There was arrest in UP for Facebook post on politician Azam Khan, but he was never arrested for his disgraceful comments. The law was misused by crooks, which enjoyed Freedom of Expressions, but failed to accept it when it comes from common public. Expressing oneself is not permissible if that hurts someone. Government simply blocks documentaries, ban books, put cartoonists in jails and arrests ordinary citizens for rude tweets and Facebook posts. It was a systematic attack on our freedom of speech, by governments either UPA or NDA and the source was Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act.

Free speech campaigner Aseem Trivedi was arrested by Mumbai police for displaying cartoons on his website and Facebook page that mocked parliament and corruption in high places. The caricatures were shared on other social media. He was charged with sedition under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and section 66(A) of the IT Act. Palghar girls, Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, were arrested when one of them posted a question on her Facebook page questioning why the city was shut down for Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s funeral. Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta were arrested for allegedly circulating a cartoon that lampooned West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. They were accused of emailing the cartoon based on a scene from Satyajit Ray’s popular movie Sonar Kella. Air India cabin crew members Mayank Mohan Sharma and K V J Rao were arrested by the cyber crime cell of Mumbai police for allegedly posting indecent jokes about the Prime Minister and other politicians and for insulting the national flag. Three youngsters from Kishtwar district were arrested and sent to jail for 40 days after they were tagged in an allegedly blasphemous video posted on Facebook. One of them had commented on the post. A Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan was arrested for allegedly posting ‘offensive’ messages on Twitter about Congress leader P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram.

Poet and writer Kanwal Bharti was arrested by police for posting a message on Facebook that criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for suspending IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who had cracked down on the sand mafia. Bharti’s post on Facebook questioned why Nagpal had been suspended for ordering the demolition of a wall intended to be part of a mosque while no officer in Rampur was dismissed when an old madrassa was pulled down. He said the reason was because the town was controlled by Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan. Police arrested CPI-M worker Rajeesh Kumar for posting “abusive” comments and photos on Facebook about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ship-building professional Chodankar was booked for posting a comment against Modi on Facebook. A teenage student of Class 11 was arrested and sent to jail for allegedly posting on Facebook “objectionable” comments attributed to Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan, kicking off a fresh controversy over the booking of people under a contentious provision of the Information Technology Act.

This section had been widely misused by police in various states to arrest innocent people for posting their comments on social networking sites. The court said such a law hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, two cardinal pillars of democracy. The court said the section has to be erased from the law books as it has gone much beyond the reasonable restrictions put by Constitution on freedom of speech. The court, however, allowed the government to block websites if their contents had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries.

Finally, SC delivered its judgement on a bunch of petitions filed in the light of misuse of the penal provision by government authorities against persons who allegedly uploaded offensive posts on social networking sites. The petitioners, including NGOs, civil rights groups and a law student, had argued that Section 66A violated citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. The government had opposed the plea for quashing the provision saying it is meant to deter people from uploading grossly offensive material which can lead to lawlessness by inciting public anger and violence. Kudos to all those people who have been a vanguard in fighting for our hard earned freedom of speech and expression.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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