SC makes posting on websites free from fear of arrest

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Feb 2018 08:49:41

Legal Correspondent,

The Supreme Court has struck down section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which empowered Police to arrest a person for allegedly uploading / writing objectionable posts on social websites. Pronouncing its verdict on a PIL against the said legal provision on social websites, justice J. Chelameswar and Justice R.F. Nariman have held that the impugned section violates the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and, therefore, it was illegal. Terming freedom of thought and expression as "cardinal", the Court has said,"the public's right to know is directly affected by section 66-A of the Information and Technology Act, 2000."

While pronouncing the verdict, Justice Nariman said that"Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought,thought,expression and belief.In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme.There is no nexus between public order and discussion or causing annoyance by dissemination of information.Curbs under section 66-A infringes on the public right to know." The Court has stated that the written word of the provision,which consists of terms such as "annoying","inconvenient" and "grossly offensive" is vague and observed that what may be offensive to a person may not be offensive to others.

The assurance given by one Government is not binding on its successor. Governments may come and go but section 66-A may be there forever.However, the Supreme Court refused to strike down two other provisions of the IT Act which provide for blocking of websites.This verdict comes following cases of persons being arrested for their posts on social networking sites. Most recently a class XII student was arrested for a post on Facebook regarding UP leader Azam Khan. The first PIL against this section was filed in the year 2012 by a law student after arrest of two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra relating to Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.