Manoj Oswal v. Union of India [W.P. (Crl.) No. 225/2013]

The petitioner is a social activist and Unit Head of animal rights’ organization, ‘People for Animals’. Petitioner seeks to declare Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 as unconstitutional and violative of Article 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the constitution of India.

Petitioner citing numerous instances, where the Police and/or other authorities have, in a wholly arbitrary and malafide manner, taken the shelter of the above-mentioned Section 66A to launch mischievous prosecutions, again various individuals challenged its validity. It has argued that the section is misused cue to the vague and ambiguous phraseology used therein inasmuch as the words such as, “causes annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult” having wide import not capable of being defined in a particular manner.

It has also argued that the current implementation of Section 66A of the said Act is illegal due to apparent misrepresentation that it covers public as well as private communication whereas the reading of the sections is very clear and definite leads to the conclusion that it covers only private communication where the action of “sending” a communication is involved.

The petitioner has also argued that Section 66A is unconstitutional as it distinguishes use of speech on cyberspace to that in other medium and that under the Constitutional scheme; it is impermissible to provide for differential treatment / penalties based on the modes/ medium of communication of information and/or speech. It has also argued that Section 66A does not pass the test of ‘reasonableness’ as provided in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

The petitioner has also challenged the validity of the provision on the ground that Section 66A contrary to the objects and provisions of the IT Act. It has argued that Section 66A is a departure from the objects of the said Act, which is to “enable electronic commerce under a legal framework”. The objects do not state its aim to be control or prevent communication between individuals, corporates and putting information in public domain.

It has also been challenged on the basis that it is inconsistent with the basic principles of Criminology and Penology as it proposes to deal with all kinds of offences with the same hand. The Act prescribes the same punishment for a minor offence as well as for a major offence without having the severity of the offence as a basis for the punishment to be proposed.

The petitioner has accordingly prayed that the Court:-

  1. Issue an appropriate writ, order or direction in the nature of Mandamus declaring Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India and hence unconstitutional;

  2. Issue Rule nisi in terms of the prayers above; and

  3. Pass such other and further orders as this Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of this case.

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