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Section 66 A

Supreme Court judgement on  section 66-A of IT act:

Section 66 A

Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device;

  1. any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
  2. any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
  3. any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,

shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Issue This section had been widely misused by police in various states to arrest innocent persons for posting critical comments about social and political issues and political leaders on social networking sites.
Grounds for the challenge While the objective behind the 2008 amendment was to prevent the misuse of information technology, particularly through social media, Section 66A comes with extremely wide parameters, which allow whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies. Terms like “annoying”, “inconvenient” and “grossly offensive”, used in the provision are vague as it is difficult for the law enforcement agency and the offender to know the ingredients of the offence.
Earlier norms Initially Supreme Court gave arbitrary powers to police officers to make arrests. The central government issued a set of guidelines in January 2013 to prevent misuse of the provision. These guidelines mandated that only senior police personnel could order arrests under this section.
New orders A person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like IG or DCP.
Related sections

The bench, however, did not strike down two other provisions; sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act, and said that they can remain enforced with certain restrictions.

Section 69A: provides power to issue directions to block public access of any information through any computer resource.

Section 79:  provides for exemption from liability of intermediary in certain cases.

 

"Central Government encourages beneficial use of cyber space and the Act only seeks to regulate the use of cyberspace which would fall within any of and/ or all categories stipulated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India."

 

Article 19:

Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc..

(1) All citizens shall have the right

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

(c) to form associations or unions;

(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and

(f) omitted

(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

(2) Nothing in sub clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

(3) Nothing in sub clause (b) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause

(4) Nothing in sub clause (c) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause

(5) Nothing in sub clauses (d) and (e) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub clauses either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe

(6) Nothing in sub clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,

  1. the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practicing any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or
  2. the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise