In a major win for freedom of speech on the internet and across social media platforms in India, the Supreme Court has scrapped the controversial law, Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, which allowed arrests over objectionable content online.
The court, however, allowed the government to block websites if their content had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries.
There have been several instances of arrests made quoting the vaguely termed Section 66A. Here are some of them:
– Standard eleven student Vicky was arrested recently in Uttar Pradesh for a Facebook post attributed to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.
– Two teenagers in Mumbai, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan, were arrested in November 2012 for posting comments on Facebook over a shutdown following Bal Thackeray’s death.
– A man was arrested in Puducherry for tweeting that Karti Chidambaram, son of then union minister P Chidambaram was ‘corrupt’.
– Ambikesh Mahapatra, a Jadavpur University professor, was arrested in Kolkata for sending email with a cartoon mocking Mamata Banerjee.
– A tourism officer was arrested for uploading “objectionable” pictures of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Azam Khan on Facebook.
The apex court on Tuesday agreed that people’s right to know was directly affected by this provision.
“Governments may come, governments may go but 66 A will continue forever. We cannot be satisfied with arguments that it will be properly implemented,” the court said as reported by NDTV .
“Freedom of Liberty of thought and faith are enshrined in the Constitution… while deliberating on the matter we had to ask ourselves the question, does a particular act lead to disturbance of tranquility of public or of an individual?”
The law had been challenged by law student Shreya Singhal. An ecstatic Singhal told NDTV she approached the Supreme Court because the law was a “violation of the Constitution. Section 66A was grossly offensive to our rights.”