SC notice to states on cases under scrapped Section 66A
The Supreme Court of India today issued a notice to all states and union territories over the registration of cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which it had quashed over six years ago. The notice has been sent to the Registrar-General of all High Courts, seeking responses within four weeks. The said provision was scrapped by the top court in 2015.
SC bench comprised Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai
"As this matter pertains to not only courts but also police, (let) notice be issued to all states and union territories," a Supreme Court bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai said. "This is to be done in a period of four weeks from today. List matter after four weeks," the court directed on Monday.
Centre's efforts 'far from adequate,' NGO's plea alleged
The plea in this regard was filed by an NGO, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), seeking a directive to the central government to advise all the police stations against registering such cases. It told the Supreme Court that the steps taken by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to implement the 2015 judgment are "far from adequate."
Centre had issued notification to states last month
Today's order comes weeks after the Centre had directed states and union territories to immediately withdraw all existing cases under Section 66A. The government also told the apex court that police and public order are "state subjects" under the Indian Constitution. That notification was issued after the Supreme Court objected to fresh police cases being filed under the scrapped law.
'What is going on is terrible,' SC said
On July 5, the Supreme Court had observed it was shocking that police were still filing cases under the canceled provision. "It is shocking. We will issue notice," a three-judge bench of Justices Nariman, Gavai, and KM Joseph had said then.
Section 66A was struck down in March, 2015
Section 66A of the IT Act allowed police to make arrests for posting offensive content online. It was challenged in the Supreme Court by Shreya Singhal, a Mumbai-based law student, after two women were arrested for commenting critically about the city's shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. The SC struck down the provision on March 24, 2015.
Hundreds of cases filed even after law was scrapped
Even though the provision was scrapped in 2015, as many as 332 cases were registered under it the same year. In 2016, 216 cases were filed, while 290 were lodged in 2017. Over 300 cases were filed in 2018 and 253 in 2019, HT reported.Share this timeline