Indian Supreme Court scraped controversial “Section 66A” from IT laws
New Delhi, India: The Indian Supreme Court has scraped the law that empowered police to arrest people for comments on social networks, reports Indian media.
According to the verdict, SC ruled that the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was unconstitutional. The government had defended the law, saying it was meant to deter people from uploading offensive material.
The verdict was announced by two-member bench of the Supreme Court on petitions filed by civil rights groups and a law student who argued that Section 66A violated people’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.
The Section 66A could send a person to jail for three years for sending an email or other electronic message that “causes annoyance or inconvenience” to receiver.
Section 66 A of IT act struck down! Three cheers for Supreme Court! #Section66A
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) March 24, 2015
The law was first challenged by a law student after two young women were arrested in November 2012 in Mumbai for comments on Facebook following the death of politician Bal Thackeray.
Shaheen Dhada was held for criticising Mumbai’s shutdown after Thackeray’s death. Renu Srinivasan, who “liked” the comment, was also arrested. The two were later released on bail.
Since then there have been several other arrests under the law, leading to charges of abuse:
On 17 March 2015, a teenage student was jailed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly posting a comment on Facebook criticising state minister Azam Khan. The teenager was later freed on bail.
In October 2012, a 46-year-old businessman in the southern city of Pondicherry was arrested for a tweet criticising Karti Chidambaram, son of then finance minister P Chidambaram. He was later released on bail.
In September 2012, there was outrage when a cartoonist was jailed in Mumbai on charges of sedition for his anti-corruption drawings. The charges were later dropped.
In April 2012, the West Bengal government arrested a teacher who had emailed to friends a cartoon that was critical of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He too was later released on bail.