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Continued use of unconstitutional section 66A of IT Act in UP

The HC noted that the UP police have been disregarding the Shreya Singhal Judgment and lodging FIRs under an already struck down provision

Sabrangindia 26 Nov 2020

66A

The Allahabad High Court on November 18, quashed the FIR registered in 2019 under section 66A of the Information Technology Act, a provision that was struck down in 2015. Nikhil Kumar and Prashant Kanha represented the aggrieved petitioners and Government Advocate Kundan Rai argued on behalf of the respondent State.

In Rajesh Singh & ors v State of Uttar Pradesh & ors (Crl. Misc. W.P No. 24804 of 2019), the Division Bench of Ramesh Sinha and Samit Gopal said, “The impugned FIR and all subsequent proceedings taken against the petitioners in pursuance thereof are hereby quashed.”

Background

The court was hearing a matter pertaining to the petitioner’s prayer to quash the FIR registered against him at Police Station, Sector-49, Noida, District Gautam Buddha Nagar. Counsel for petitioners submitted that the impugned FIR cannot be lodged against the petitioners as the offence under Section 66A of Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2000 has been declared ultravires by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India (2015) 5 SCC 1.

The Government Advocate though opposed the prayer for quashing of the FIR, also conceded the fact that the impugned FIR could not be registered under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in view of the order in Shreya Singhal.

The Division Bench observed that the court has been encountering such situations where cases are getting registered under this unconstitutional law. They said, “The authorities concerned in spite of the clear mandate of the Hon'ble Apex Court in the Case of Shreya Singhal (Supra) declaring the same as ultra-vires and later on in the case of Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties (Supra) having reminded the said situation through a specific order have become unresponsive and insensitive to the issue.”

“Time and again reminders have been issued by this Court for effective and actual enforcement of it and of the fact that Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has been declared ultra-vires and also in spite of the fact that the said judgment declaring it to be so, has been ordered to be circulated amongst the officers concerned, there appears to be no regards for the same and the situation remains as earlier as is the said section is well in force”, the Bench added.

Shreya Singhal Verdict

Section 66A, introduced in the Information Technology Act by virtue of an Amendment Act of 2009 penalised any person with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine who sent, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or any information for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.

This provision was struck down as it violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

In 2019, the Supreme Court through a Bench comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran had taken cognisance of an application filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties on the continued use of Section 66A. The court had warned the concerned officials that they will be arrested if its order scrapping the provision will be violated. The top court had also directed the Chief Secretaries of all states to sensitise the police departments in the country by sending copies of the Shreya Singhal judgment to the Director General of Police in each State.

The Allahabad HC order may be read here:


Related:

Police Continue To Make Arrests Using ‘Unconstitutional’ Section 66A of IT Act, Struck Down By Supreme Court 3 Years Ago

Where does the law stand on your “objectionable” posts on social media?

Continued use of unconstitutional section 66A of IT Act in UP

The HC noted that the UP police have been disregarding the Shreya Singhal Judgment and lodging FIRs under an already struck down provision

66A

The Allahabad High Court on November 18, quashed the FIR registered in 2019 under section 66A of the Information Technology Act, a provision that was struck down in 2015. Nikhil Kumar and Prashant Kanha represented the aggrieved petitioners and Government Advocate Kundan Rai argued on behalf of the respondent State.

In Rajesh Singh & ors v State of Uttar Pradesh & ors (Crl. Misc. W.P No. 24804 of 2019), the Division Bench of Ramesh Sinha and Samit Gopal said, “The impugned FIR and all subsequent proceedings taken against the petitioners in pursuance thereof are hereby quashed.”

Background

The court was hearing a matter pertaining to the petitioner’s prayer to quash the FIR registered against him at Police Station, Sector-49, Noida, District Gautam Buddha Nagar. Counsel for petitioners submitted that the impugned FIR cannot be lodged against the petitioners as the offence under Section 66A of Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2000 has been declared ultravires by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India (2015) 5 SCC 1.

The Government Advocate though opposed the prayer for quashing of the FIR, also conceded the fact that the impugned FIR could not be registered under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in view of the order in Shreya Singhal.

The Division Bench observed that the court has been encountering such situations where cases are getting registered under this unconstitutional law. They said, “The authorities concerned in spite of the clear mandate of the Hon'ble Apex Court in the Case of Shreya Singhal (Supra) declaring the same as ultra-vires and later on in the case of Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties (Supra) having reminded the said situation through a specific order have become unresponsive and insensitive to the issue.”

“Time and again reminders have been issued by this Court for effective and actual enforcement of it and of the fact that Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has been declared ultra-vires and also in spite of the fact that the said judgment declaring it to be so, has been ordered to be circulated amongst the officers concerned, there appears to be no regards for the same and the situation remains as earlier as is the said section is well in force”, the Bench added.

Shreya Singhal Verdict

Section 66A, introduced in the Information Technology Act by virtue of an Amendment Act of 2009 penalised any person with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine who sent, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or any information for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.

This provision was struck down as it violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

In 2019, the Supreme Court through a Bench comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran had taken cognisance of an application filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties on the continued use of Section 66A. The court had warned the concerned officials that they will be arrested if its order scrapping the provision will be violated. The top court had also directed the Chief Secretaries of all states to sensitise the police departments in the country by sending copies of the Shreya Singhal judgment to the Director General of Police in each State.

The Allahabad HC order may be read here:


Related:

Police Continue To Make Arrests Using ‘Unconstitutional’ Section 66A of IT Act, Struck Down By Supreme Court 3 Years Ago

Where does the law stand on your “objectionable” posts on social media?

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