Supreme Court : No citizen can be prosecuted under Section 66A IT Act

Current Affairs

  • The Supreme Court on October 12, 2022, laid down guidelines for the implementation of the Shreya Singhal versus Union of India judgment, which declared Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 unconstitutional.
  • Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, of 2000 made it a punishable offence for any person to send offensive information using a computer or any other electronic device.
  • The provision also made it punishable for a person to send information that they believed to be false. Even sending emails for causing annoyance, inconvenience, or to deceive or mislead the recipient about the origin of the message was punishable under this section.
  • The bench  further also observed the counsel appearing for the Centre has placed on record an all-India status report with regard to pending cases under section 66A. It observed the information given in a tabular form does suggest that despite the issue regarding the validity of section 66A of the Act having been decided by the apex court, a number of criminal proceedings still rely upon this provision and citizens are still facing prosecution.
  • The bench also said whenever any publication, whether government, semi-government or private, about the IT Act is published and section 66A is quoted as part of the statute book, the reader must adequately be informed that section 66A has already been pronounced upon by the apex court to be violative of the constitution.
  • Calling a “matter of serious concern” the registration of FIRs under section 66A of the Act which was scrapped in 2015, the apex court had last month asked the chief secretaries of the states concerned to take back the cases within three weeks.
  • The bench was hearing a miscellaneous application of the civil liberties organisation, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) alleging prosecution of people under the scrapped provision. PUCL claimed that despite express directions of the court in 2019 that all state governments sensitise police personnel about the March 24, 2015 judgment, thousands of cases have been registered under the section.
  • It sought direction to the Centre to collect all data/ information regarding FIRs/investigations where section 66A has been invoked as well as pendency of cases in the courts throughout the country where proceedings under the provision are continuing in violation of the 2015 judgment.

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