Supreme Court Issues Notice to the Centre for Continued use of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000


Yesterday, The Supreme Court of India issued notice to the Central Government for the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 ("the IT Act"), despite the provision being struck down from the statute books as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgment - Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) [WP (Criminal) No. 167 of 2012). The court has directed the Centre to file a counter affidavit within 4 weeks and another week has been granted for a rejoinder. The petition has been filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

The 66A Rigmarole

The recent arrest of a writer in Karnataka over alleged Facebook posts making sexist and derogatory comments about a social activist on Facebook, has once again fuelled the long running debate over the requirement and reasons of insertion of section 66A.'s Submission To The Consultation Paper on Media law

In May 2013, the Law Commission of India had issued a Consultation Paper on Media law, where the Commission invited comments from stakeholders and the general public on laws pertaining to governance of Indian media. Though the Consultation Paper dealt primarily with issues such as cross media ownership, paid news, fake sting operations, trial by media and regulation ofgovernment owned media, the Commission also sought comments on the following questions related to social media, Section 66A of the IT Act and criminal defamation laws:

Supreme Court and The IT Act

Since its introduction back in October 2000, the Information Technology Act has proved to be a highly controversial piece of legislation. In its thirteen-odd years of operation, the Act has managed to draw considerable criticism from the legal community and the general public. It is alleged to contain a whole spectrum of flaws, shortcomings and pitfalls ranging from being inefficient in tackling cyber crimes to placing unfair curbs on the civil liberties of citizens.

Making matters worse, a 2008 Amendment introduced to the Act the now-infamous Section 66A, which reads: