SC will jail officials who continue to arrest people under junked IT law

This order came after a non-profit group People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) submitted a petition recording that more than 22 people were prosecuted under Section 66A of the IT Act after it was scrapped.

Supreme Court
New Delhi: The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre for not taking appropriate measures to prevent arrests made under Section 66A of the IT Act struck down by the top court in 2015.
Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act, that deals with deals with cybercrime and e-commerce, was struck down and the apex court called it “vague” and “unconstitutional.” The dead cyberlaw prescribed a three-year jail term for online content that could be construed to be offensive or false, holding that this provision violates the constitutional freedom of speech and expression.
The top court bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran said it is “shocking if true” that people were arrested under Section 66(A).
SC warned that those who ordered the arrests would be jailed. “If what they allege is correct, then you people will face severe strictures,” said Justice Nariman. “We will send everyone to jail who ordered the arrests. We are going to take very strict action,” the judge said.
The bench has given the government four weeks to file a response.
This order came after a non-profit group People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) submitted a petition recording that more than 22 people were prosecuted under the provision after it was scrapped. The case was argued by Advocate Sanjay Parikh, who was assisted by Advocates Sanjana Srikumar; Abhinav Sekhri; Apar Gupta and C. Ramesh Kumar, Advocate on Record.
The PUCL said their research compiled media reports, data from the National Crime Records Bureau and cases indexed in online databases. “While these data sets do not provide exhaustive coverage of the entire legal system, they sufficiently establish that Section 66(A) of the IT Act continues to live on in the legal system despite the judgement in the Shreya Singhal case,” the PUCL said in its petition.

Before it was scrapped, the controversial Section 66(A) of the IT Act was long decried by activists, freedom of speech and internet freedom campaigners as being aimed solely at muzzling dissent and differences of opinion on the internet.
The contention by most of the petitioners before 2015 was that Section 66(A) was vague and allowed the police arbitrary interpretation and misuse of the law.
The IT Act was passed in 2000, but it was only in 2008 that Section 66(A) was inserted via an amendment.
In May 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an advisory stating that a person accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without permission from a senior officer such as an IG or a DIG.
The Supreme Court had struck down the “draconian” provision in March 2015. Section 66A of the IT Act had led to the arrests of numerous people for posting “allegedly objectionable” content on the internet. The verdict in 2015 had been passed by Justice RF Nariman.
In its judgment, the court had observed that the section “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech”.
The first PIL against the section was filed in 2012 by law student Shreya Singhal, who had sought an amendment in it after two girls were arrested in Palghar in Thane under it. One of the girls had posted a comment against a shutdown in Mumbai after Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other had liked it.



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