SC in shock mode after hearing Section 66A is still being used
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday expressed shock and said “amazing” that people are still being booked under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act that was scrapped by the apex court verdict in 2015. A bench of Justices R F Nariman, K M Joseph and B R Gavai issued notice to the Centre on an application filed by an NGO, ‘People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL), informing about thousands of cases registered under Sec 66A by police across the country for the past six years. Under the scrapped section a person posting offensive messages could be imprisoned for up to three years as also fined.
“Don’t you think this is amazing and shocking? Shreya Singhal judgement is of 2015. It’s really shocking. What is going on is terrible,” the bench told senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for PUCL. Parikh said that despite express directions of the court in 2019 that all State Governments should sensitise police personnel about the March 24, 2015 judgment, and the thousands of cases that have been registered under the section. The bench said, “Yes, we have seen those figures. Don’t worry we will do something”.
Now when a police officer has to register a case, he sees the Section and registers the case without going through the footnote. Instead, what can be done is that we can put a bracket just after section 66A and mention that it has been scrapped.
Parikh said there has to be some kind of method to handle the matter as people are suffering. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said that on perusal of the IT Act it can be seen that section 66A features in it, but in the footnote, it is written that the provision has been scrapped.
“Now when a police officer has to register a case, he sees the Section and registers the case without going through the footnote. Instead, what can be done is that we can put a bracket just after section 66A and mention that it has been scrapped. We can in the footnote put the entire extract of the verdict,” Venugopal said. Justice Nariman said, “You please file counters in two weeks. We have issued a notice. List the matter after two weeks”. The petitioner also pointed out that 66A of the IT Act has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across India.
The PUCL sought direction to the Centre to collect all data/ information regarding FIRs/ investigations where Section 66A has been invoked as well as pendency of cases in the courts throughout the country where proceedings under the provision are continuing in violation of the 2015 judgment. The PUCL also sought direction to the top court registry to communicate to all the District Courts throughout the country (through respective High Courts) to take cognizance of the 2015 judgment, so that no person should suffer or face any adverse consequences which violate his fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. The NGO said the Centre will be directed to issue an advisory to all police stations not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A…
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