The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 66A of the IT Act which allowed the police to arrest people posting objectionable content online, has evoked mixed reactions from Mumbaikars. Even though some of them had welcomed the apex court’s order while others felt that there is a possibility that people might post offensive content on social media and other forums. The apex court, while passing its ruling, observed that the Section 66A of the IT Act was ‘too vague and violative of 19(1)A of Constitution’. The bench said the people’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A and the Section clearly affects the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Constitution of India.
Shreya Singhal, a law student had filed a PIL in 2012 and sought amendment in Section 66A of the Act, after two girls Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan were arrested in Palghar district for posting comments pertaining to the bandh called in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death. The Supreme Court had on May 16, 2013, come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like IG or DCP.
When AV spoke to Advocate Sushan Kunjuraman he said, “I am not in favour of deletion of section 66A of the IT Act. It will give liberty to people for creating nuisance on social networking sites. If the section is deleted then it should be replaced by another one for preventing people from posting objectionable comments online.”
Senior Advocate Rohini Salian said, “The content which is posted or commented should not malign an individual’s image online. Sharing cartoons is acceptable but posting nudity should be prohibited. The manner in which police had reacted in the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan was unjustified. They should have probed the matter before taking action against them.”
Lawyer Abbas Kazmi said, “Police has been misusing section 66 A to arrest people for posting comments online. It was high time that this draconian section should have been struck down.”
“Section 66A of the IT Act, the noxious, draconian law has been struck down by the Supreme Court. It restores our faith in democracy,” Shreya Singhal, the main petitioner in the case said.
“There are other provisions in IT act. If there’s hate speech, you’ll be dealt with under those provisions,” Shreya Singhal said,
Shaheen Dhada’s father Farooq Dhada and uncle Abdul Dhada said they welcome the apex court’s ruling. They said that the comment made by Shaheen was not against any individual but was a “general” one.
“We hope that now there will be no misuse of the law and the social media as well following the apex court’s decision (to scrap Section 66A of IT Act). Shaheen had made a general comment and did not intent to target any individual or hurt religious sentiments,” Farooq Dhada said.
Reacting to the development, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Social media does have positive impact, but it’s also being misused, police must have some powers in their hands.”