SC seeks reply from all States on continued use of scrapped Sec 66A of IT Act

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August 03, 2021 12:17 AM

A bench led by Justice R F Nariman issued sought a response from all States and Union Territories and Registrar General of all High Courts within four weeks in the matter. The bench noted that since the police is a state subject, it will be better than all the state governments and UTs are made party.

"Police is a state subject. We will issue notice and pass comprehensive orders. This cannot continue. Judiciary we can take care separately but police are also there," Justice Nariman said."Police is a state subject. We will issue notice and pass comprehensive orders. This cannot continue. Judiciary we can take care separately but police are also there," Justice Nariman said.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from all States, Union Territories and high courts over the continued filing of FIRs under the scrapped Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
Section 66A was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a judgment in 2015.

A bench led by Justice R F Nariman issued sought a response from all States and Union Territories and Registrar General of all High Courts within four weeks in the matter. The bench noted that since the police is a state subject, it will be better than all the state governments and UTs are made party.

“Police is a state subject. We will issue notice and pass comprehensive orders. This cannot continue. Judiciary we can take care separately but police are also there,” Justice Nariman said.

States and their agencies share an “equal responsibility” to ensure that people are not booked by the police under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act for expressing themselves freely on social media, the Centre submitted in an affidavit to the Supreme Court.

Senior counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO, said that there are two aspects in this matter, one is police and the other is judiciary where such cases are still being tried.

The Centre in its reply to the Supreme Court had stated that States and their agencies share an “equal responsibility” to ensure that people are not booked by the police under Section 66A for expressing themselves freely on social media. “Prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes and capacity-building of the police are primarily the responsibility of the States,” the Centre submitted in the affidavit, adding that the law enforcement agencies share equal responsibility to comply with the apex court judgment. They take action against cybercrime offenders as per the law.

The Centre said the Ministries of Information and Technology and Home Affairs had done their best to disseminate knowledge about the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.

On July 5, the judges had expressed displeasure over the registration of FIRs on a scrapped provision of the Information Technology Act and had termed it as “distressing,” “shocking” and “terrible” that people are still booked and tried under the provision even six years after the apex court struck it down.

The observation had come when the Bench was told that over 1,000 cases have been filed under Section 66A, a struck down a provision that allowed police to arrest people for posting “offensive” content online.

The NGO also urged the Supreme Court to direct the government, through the National Crime Records Bureau or any other agency, to collect all the data/information regarding FIRs/investigations under Section 66A and pending cases in district and High Courts.

In a landmark judgement in the Shreya Singhal case in 2015, the SC had described Section 66A, now-defunct law, as “vague” and “unconstitutional.” The top court had held that “Section 66A is struck down in its entirety being violative of Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech) and not saved under Article 19(2) (reasonable restrictions).” Section 66A made posting “offensive” comments online punishable by a jail term of three years.

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