In what would come as a major victory for Internet freedom activists not only in India but across the globe, India’s Supreme court has just scrapped of the hugely controversial Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, terming it unconstitutional.
Introduced in 2000, the judge described the law as “vague in its entirety,” and that it encroaches upon “the public’s right to know.”
The law was challenged first by a law student named Shreya Singhal post the controversial arrest of two women for posting comments, criticising the total shutdown in Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, then Chief of one of Maharashtra’s most influential political outfit, Shiv Sena.
The group that challenged the law in the Supreme Court expanded to include the NGO Common Cause and Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
Section 66A had been controversial, ever since it was introduced in 2002. Many activists alleged that the law provided unchallenging authority to Government authorities to take people into custody by misinterpreting the law. Many other instances of Section 66 A’s misue have been recorded wherein political parties used the law to get people critical of them, arrested. A professor in West Bengal was arrested in 2012 for posting a cartoon of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for example.
This is what Section 66 A reads,
Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.