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SC takes stern view of people being hauled under invalidated IT Act section


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday took strong exception to and expressed shock over the people being arrested and prosecuted under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act -- which was junked as unconstitutional by the top court way back in 2015 -- as it sought Centre's response on a PIL by the NGO PUCL.

Describing as "shocking" that people were being prosecuted under a provision that was invalidated by the top court, the bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran said: "We are going to take a strict action against the officials and arrest them."

Seeking a response from the Centre in four weeks, the court gave a week's time to NGO People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) to file its rejoinder to the Centre's response.

Contending that after a provision of law is declared unconstitutional, it is rendered void ab initio either wholly or in part, PUCL has asserted that Section 66A, after being declared unconstitutional, ceased to exist from the date of its insertion into the IT Act - October 27, 2009.

It further said that March 24, 2015, top court verdict "rendered all investigations, prosecutions, and convictions based on Section 66A IT Act illegal, and it also forestalled any use of Section 66A IT Act".

The Supreme Court had on March 24, 2015 quashed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, holding that it was violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression.

The court had said that "it is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such rights".

"The Preamble of the Constitution of India inter alia speaks of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. It also says that India is a sovereign democratic republic. It cannot be over-emphasized that when it comes to democracy, liberty of thought and expression is a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme," Justice Nariman had said pronouncing the judgment.

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