- In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as unconstitutional in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.
Section 66A of IT Act:
- Section 66A of IT act, serves as an example of the positive deterrents applied by the government to stop the use of right to freedom of speech, to cause public unrest.
- The section can come effective to punish the people who plot to create unrest in the society, by spreading false news on the social media, as our nation has many gullible citizens, who tend to speculate without thought and can be brainwashed easily.
- On the other hand, such an act cannot be thought to be a panacea for all such problems, as it can also be used by some people to create fear among the society, so that no one will oppose any of their decisions in the future.
- The case of 2 girls who posted a comment on social media against a particular party, can be taken as an example for this case. The harassment they faced for just one comment cannot be said to be fair, considering the fact that their act was not inflammatory.
- The need of the hour is, that the government should omit the vagueness in the section regarding the acts, which are to be considered punishable. All such reports which are filed under this section should be dealt with on case to case basis, with adequate discretion, so as to not harass them before the consequences materialize.
- A random complaint by anyone, about any misuse of freedom of speech should not be taken enough to arrest the persons, but should be followed by proper investigation to assess the scale of effect it has on the society.
Section 69A of IT Act:
Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000 provides for blocking of websites and Uniform Resource Locators(URL’s) in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to the above. But the lack of transparency in process leading to blocking of such websites is an area of concern.
Supreme court in Shreya Singhal Vs Union of India case had nullified the Section 66A but upheld the constitutionality of Section 69A on the grounds that there are sufficient internal safeguards and reasonable procedures available within Section 69A. Those safeguards are:
- Intermediaries (those who host articles like Google, Facebook etc.) have to be given a chance to be heard as a right.
- If the original originator of a particular article is found, he/she also must be given a hearing.
- Above two can be circumvented if a court itself passes an order to block websites or URL’s.
Given the nature of security concerns that internet information can create like the exodus of north east people from south India in 2013, organizing riots through internet based campaigning etc. it is very important government has a power to exercise blocking of content, thus Section 69A is necessary. But at the same time more transparency clauses has to be brought into the IT Act if required and the presence of free media, active judiciary and vocal civil society groups are enough deterrent on any excess of government.
Application of Section 66A section continues unabated
- The police in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, had arrested and detained 18-year-old Zakir Ali Tyagi in October 2017 under Section 66A — for posting some comments on Facebook.
- Media outlets have reported other instances where Section 66A has been invoked by the police.
- Do you think the Section 69A of the I.T. Act is unconstitutional? Critically comment. (200 Words)
- Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is a necessary deterrent and cannot be cast away on the apprehension that it would be misused to affect the freedom of speech and expression. Do you agree with this view? Critically comment. (200 Words)