Section 66A Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 07 September 2022 at  18:30 IST

The Supreme Court asked the Centre to get in touch with the Chief Secretaries of the States where FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act are continuing to be registered even after the provisions were labelled as unconstitutional by the Court in 2015.

The Court requested that the Union urge such states to adopt “remedial measures as soon as possible.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat was hearing a matter filed by the NGO Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which highlighted the issue regarding the use of Section 66A IT Act despite the judgement in Shreya Singhal v. UOI (2015) 5 SCC 1.

The bench also emphasised the gravity of the situation and issued notice to the states and HCs. The matter is listed to be heard three weeks later.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner gave the explicit details of the cases registered under Section 66A of the IT Act by the Police/Law Enforcement Authorities in different States after the landmark judgement in the Shreya Singhal case.

After hearing arguments, the bench said that-

“The grievance based on this application is about the non-implementation of directions issued by this court in Shreya Singhal v. UOI striking down Section 66A of IT Act. It is submitted that despite the directions of this court, in various crimes, offences in relation to violation of 66A are still being projected. Instances in that behalf have been given. This court therefore issues notices to all the states. All states are before us. “

The court further reasoned that most of the states had indisputably submitted that the directions given by the Court in the said judgement had been followed and no case under Section 66A is pending in a court of law at present.

However, the bench noted that-

“However, there still appears some instances where the concerned provision has been invoked and the offences in that behalf are still pending consideration. It is a matter of serious concern that, despite the pronouncement of this court, offences under 66A are still being considered. “

The bench asked Advocate Zoheb Hossain, counsel appearing for the Centre, to get in contact with Chief Secretaries of States where the offences are still being registered and come up with remedial measures as early as possible. The counsel can ask the Chief Secretaries for necessary information in order to frame adequate measures. The Court directed the States to provide all information and assistance to the counsel. All this should be done in 3 months.

The issues raised by the PUCL in the petition filed before the apex court are:

  1. Whether the Judgment of Shreya Singhal v. UOI (2015) 5 SCC 1 has been complied with?
  2. Whether the steps taken by the UOI are adequate?
  3. What steps need to be taken for effective implementation of the Judgment in Shreya Singhal to avoid wrongful investigation and prosecution?
  4. What steps should be taken to ensure that the Judgments of the Court passed in important cases touching protection of legal and constitutional rights of the people, are effectively implemented?

The plea submitted underlined that the steps taken by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) towards ensuring effective implementation of Shreya Singhal v. UOI are far from adequate.

It claims that the Union of India shied away from its obligation to put the judgement into practise by claiming that the States and law enforcement organisations were also responsible for doing so.

The petitioner seeks via application to direct Union of India to collect details of the cases registered by the Police/Law Enforcement Agencies under Section 66A of the IT Act since the pronouncement of the Judgment in Shreya Singhal and in cases where the case is at the stage of investigation, direct the Director General of Police in the States and the Administrators/Lieutenant Governors in the cases of Union Territories to drop further investigation under Section 66A.

It further requests that the Chief Justices of all the High Courts issue advisories to all lower courts (both Sessions Courts and Magistrate Courts) directing them to dismiss any charges or trials brought under Section 66A and release the defendant in such cases.

Additionally, it requests that all the High Courts (through Registrar Generals) inform all District Courts and Magistrates that no cognizance should be taken immediately under the IT Act’s repealed Section 66A.

It also requests that the DGPs of all the States and the administrators of all the UTs take action against the police and law enforcement agencies that are found to be filing cases under the IT Act’s repealed Section 66A and permit the High Courts to file suo motu contempt actions against those accountable for filing a case under Section 66A, investigating it, or pursuing it despite being informed that Section 66A has been struck down.

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