New Delhi: The Union government reached out to all states urging them not to invoke the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 for taking action against online comments. Following backlash from the free speech campaigners and petitions in the court, the Supreme Court expunged the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act that made posting "offensive" comments online a crime punishable by jail.
Recently, the Supreme Court expressed shock on knowing that Section 66A is still being used to charge offenders.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has requested states and Union Territories (UTs) to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, a Home Ministry statement said. The ministry said it has also asked the states and UTs to sensitise law enforcement agencies for the compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court on March 24, 2015. The MHA has also requested that if any case has been booked in states and UTs under section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, such cases should be immediately withdrawn.
The Supreme Court in its judgment on March 24, 2015, in the matter of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India had struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. This made Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 null and void with effect from the date of the order and hence no action could be taken under this section.
The section of the law provides police power to arrest a person for posting "offensive" content online and provides for a three-year jail term. The Supreme Court early this month issued a notice to the Union government on the use of Section 66A of the IT Act and said that it was shocking that the judgment striking down the law has not been implemented even now.
Responding to the notification, Internet Freedom Foundation said, "We welcome this notification of the MHA and express our hope that it will be followed by every law enforcement agency in the country. But the matter is not over, we will be there at the next date of hearing to assist the SC with the successful implementation of its 2015 judgment."