New Delhi: The Supreme Court on August 2 issued notices to all states, Union territories and Registrar Generals of all high courts in connection with a plea over the continued use of the scraped section 66A of Information Technology (IT) Act, which was struck down in March 2015.
In a plea by the NGO, People Union for Civil Liberties, a bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai stated that they “will pass comprehensive order so that matter of booking people under scrapped section 66A of IT Act is settled once and for all.”
The petition stated that the scrapped section continued to be in use not only at police stations but also in trial courts across the country. To which, the bench responded, “Judiciary we can take care of separately but police is also there. There needs to be one proper order because this cannot continue.”
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had written to states asking them not to register cases under the repealed provision and withdraw any such case that may have been filed.
“The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has requested States and Union Territories (UTs) to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It has also asked the States and UTs to sensitize law enforcement agencies for the compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court on 24.03.2015,” a statement issued by the MHA said.
The move came after the SC on July 5 expressed its shock over the continued use of section 66A of the IT Act.
“Amazing. What is going on is terrible,” remarked Justice Nariman as Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh drew the court’s attention to how cases have increased steadily over the years despite the March 24, 2015, ruling in the Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case that struck down section 66A for “being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).”
Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.