The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its “shock” and “astonishment” at the manner in which people were still being reserved under section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on March 24, 2015.
âIt’s amazing and shocking. This is what I can tell. Shreya Singhal is a 2015 judgment. What is happening in the country is terrible, âJudge RF Nariman observed after the lead lawyer representing the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) brought to the attention of the court the continuation of the taxation of cases within the framework of the deleted section and that the courts take cognizance of it. The bench led by Judge Nariman also included Judges KM Joseph and BR Gavai.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, on behalf of the Center, requested two weeks to file the Center’s counter-affidavit on the case.
According to PUCL, 745 cases filed under section 66A of the Information Technology Act are pending in various courts to date.
In its petition, PUCL urged the Supreme Court to order the Center to collect data on FIRs, investigations or pending cases in which Section 66A has been invoked.
During the hearing, Venugopal argued that section 66A is still present in most law books.
âWhen the police have to register a case, the section is always there with only a footnote that says the Supreme Court overturned it. There must be a parenthesis in 66A with words struck out, âthe country’s top judicial officer said.
âYou put down a meter because it’s a shocking situation,â Judge Nariman told the GA.
According to PUCL, the Supreme Court had, in a subsequent order of February 15, 2019, ordered states and Union territories to refrain from invoking Article 66A, but the police continue to file complaints under this disposition.
ââ¦ The plaintiff discovered that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act continued to be used not only in police stations but also in cases in lower courts across India. Â», Declared the PUCL.
PUCL said the information was available on www.zombietracker.in – a website developed by a team of independent researchers.
The website provides information on such cases and serves as a tool for a practical mapping of the use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act across India. The website’s findings reveal that as of March 10, 2021, up to 745 cases were still pending and active in district courts in 11 states where defendants are being prosecuted for offenses under section 66A of the Law on computing.
Thus, the PUCL sought the following orientations:
Direct the Union Government to immediately ensure full compliance with Shreya Singhal by issuing appropriate circulars / notices addressed to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, and to the DGPs of all States and Territories of the Union. the Union, or their equivalent agents for dissemination police stations;
Direct the Supreme Court Registry to send a copy of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India to all high courts to make the appropriate orders in the pending cases regarding Article 66A of the Computer Law as well as the appropriate circulars, bringing Shreya Singhal to the notice of all districts the courts under their jurisdiction to prevent failures of justice;
â« Direct center to collect and provide data for all Section 66A prosecutions after March 24, 2015 in Supreme Court to ensure compliance with Shreya Singhal
On March 24, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled heavily on the authorities’ tendency to imprison individuals for posting “offensive” content on social networking sites and struck down the controversial section 66A of the IT law. as âunconstitutionalâ and in violation of the freedom of expression and speech guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.
While overturning the legislation, the Supreme Court said the provision was loosely defined to include any form of opinion expressed on the Internet. This can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, the Supreme Court said.
However, no one has so far been convicted under this provision, although dozens of people are being held in prisons under the contested offense.
In addition to section 66A, the court struck down section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act, which provided for a similar sentence.