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India: No more arrests on Facebook posts: SCI strikes down Section 66 A of Information Technology Act

March 24, 2015 | By

New Delhi: In a major decision the Supreme Court of India reportedly scrapped a controversial law – the Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act – which allowed arrests over objectionable content online.

“Governments may come, governments may go but 66 A will continue forever. We cannot be satisfied with arguments that it will be properly implemented,” the court said today, agreeing that the people’s right to know was directly affected by the provision.


Facebook [Fi;e Photo]

‘Freedom of Liberty of thought [is] enshrined in the Constitution… while deliberating on the matter we had to ask ourselves the question, does a particular act lead to disturbance of tranquility of public or of an individual?’, the SCI reportedly said.

The law was challenged by law student Shreya Singal and others, including Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin, who said it interferes with free speech.

The petitioners had argued that the definition of Section 66 A – material that is grossly menacing, offensive and causes annoyance to public — is vague and may lead to misuse. Even genuine comments criticising a person, and caricatures become an excuse for harassment, they said.

The Centre said the law’s potential abuse cannot be a ground for declaring it unconstitutional.

The petition was filed in the aftermath of the 2012 arrest of two teenagers in Mumbai’s Palghar, who had objected to a statewide strike called by Shiv Sena following the death of party patriarch Bal Thackeray. They were let off after the arrests provoked nationwide outrage and shifted the focus on the IT laws.

After a few more similar arrests, the home ministry directed all states to make arrests under Section 66 A only when they are cleared by senior police officers.

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