The Supreme Court of India has ruled that Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act is unconstitutional. The ruling was based on the fact that the law was too vague and was being abused by police and politicians to silence dissent. The court found it to be a violation of citizens’ freedom of speech. The IT Act was passed in 2000, but the offending section was not originally part of it. It was only in 2008 that Section 66(A) was added.
Since its inception, Section 66(A) has drawn the criticism of free speech activists in the country, because it contains provisions criminalizing the sending of “grossly offensive” messages online. Additionally, it has provisions against sending messages “for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience.” Anyone who violates that section of the law could get a fine or a prison term up to 3 years in length. Due to the incredibly broad language that is used in the law, it’s not too surprising that it was used by the government to silence critical voices.
One example of this law being abused occurred in 2012, when a professor was arrested for posting a political cartoon criticizing the chief minister of West Bengal. In another example, also from 2012, two women were arrested under this law. One of the women made a post on Facebook questioning the shutdown of the city of Mumbai out of respect for the recent death of a politician, and the other woman merely liked the post.
After the arrest of the two women, someone decided to finally stand up and challenge the law in court. Shreya Singhal, a law student, went directly to the Supreme Court to challenge the law. Even before completing her degree and becoming a lawyer, Singhal has achieved a major accomplishment; winning a case before the Supreme Court and getting an unjust law overturned. Thanks to her efforts, online censorship has had a huge reversal in India.
Do you agree with the law being overturned, or was it necessary for the good of society? Leave your comment below.