Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Section 66A of IT Act unconstitutional: SC


Courtesy_
Daily Thanthi Newspaper

Section 66A of IT Act unconstitutional, Supreme Court rules
NEW DELHI, March 24, 2015
JAYANT SRIRAM
Supreme Court: "Section 66 A of IT Act clearly affects right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Constitution."
The section gives police powers to arrest people for posting “offensive content” online
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, which allows police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet.
The court, however, allowed the government to block websites if their content had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India's relationship with other countries.
The bench said the public's right to know is directly affected by Section 66 A and the Section clearly affects the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Constitution of India.
Further, the court said Section 66 A was unconstitutional because it failed two major tests - the clear and present danger test and the tendency to create public disorder test. The court also found the language used in the Section vague and nebulous saying it doesn't properly define words like 'offensive' or even 'persistent'.
The court said it can't go by government assurances that the Section won't be misused as any assurance would not bind on successive governments. Section 66 A it said, would have to be judged on its own merits.
The court said there is a difference between discussion, advocacy and incitement. Discussion & advocacy, no matter if annoying to some people, has to be allowed, it said.
A bench of justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman had on 26 February reserved its judgement on one of the most controversial issues regarding the freedom of expression that the court has had to deal with in recent times. The verdict was reserved after the government concluded its arguments contending that section 66A of the Information Technology Act cannot be declared unconstitutional merely because of the possibility of its “abuse”.
The government said it did not want to curtail the freedom of speech and expression but contended that the cyber space could not be allowed to remain unregulated. During hearing however, the court had found several issues with the wording of the law. In particular, it said that terms like ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘of menacing character’, used to classify content as illegal, were vague expressions and these words were likely to be misunderstood and abused.
The first PIL on the issue was filed in 2012 by a law student Shreya Singhal, who sought amendment in Section 66A of the Act, after two girls — Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — were arrested in Palghar in Thane district as one of them posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it. The apex court had on 16 May 2013, come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like the IG or the DCP.
Also read FULL Judgment at the following links:


2. http://goo.gl/oDrF1m

Also read the related stories
SC strikes down Section 66A of IT Act, terms it unconstitutional
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 - 3:45pm IST | Agency: DNA Webdesk
In a landmark judgment, Supreme Court has struck down Section 66A  of the IT Act. In their order, the court said, Section 66A is violative of Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence unconstitutional.
In a landmark judgement upholding freedom of expression, the Supreme Court today struck down a provision in the cyber law which provides power to arrest a person for posting allegedly "offensive" content on websites.
Terming liberty of thought and expression as "cardinal", a bench of justices J Chelameswar and R F Nariman said, "The public's right to know is directly affected by section 66A of the Information Technology Act." Justice Nariman, who pronounced the verdict in a packed court room, also said that the provision "clearly affects" the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Constitution.
Elaborating the grounds for holding the provision as "unconstitutional", it said terms like "annoying", "inconvenient" and "grossly offensive", used in the provision are vague as it is difficult for the law enforcement agency and the offender to know the ingredients of the offence. The bench also referred to two judgements of separate UK courts which reached different conclusions as to whether the material in question was offensive or grossly offensive.
"When judicially trained minds can reach on different conclusions" while going through the same content, then how is it possible for law enforcement agency and others to decide as to what is offensive and what is grossly offensive, the bench said, adding, "What may be offensive to a person may not be offensive to the other". The bench also rejected the assurance given by NDA government during the hearing that certain procedures may be laid down to ensure that the law in question is not abused.
The government had also said that it will not misuse the provision. "Governments come and go but section 66A will remain forever," the bench said, adding the present government cannot give an undertaking about its successor that they will not abuse the same. The bench, however, did not strike down two other provisions- sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act- and said that they can remain enforced with certain restrictions.
15:57 IST Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Congress today admitted that Section 66A of cyber law, introduced by the UPA regime in 2008, was poorly drafted and vulnerable to misuse after the provision was struck down by the Supreme Court. The party, however, tried to deflect criticism by targeting Modi government on its stand in the court on the provision which allows arrest of a person for posting allegedly offensive content on websites.
Congress leader P Chidambaram welcomed the Supreme Court judgement holding Section 66A of the IT Act as unconstitutional. "I welcome the judgement of the Supreme Court holding that Section 66A of the IT Act is unconstitutional. "The section was poorly drafted and was vulnerable. It was capable of being misused and, in fact, it was misused," he said.
The former Union Minister, who held the Home and Finance portfolios in UPA government, said there could be a case of misuse of freedom of speech and in such cases ordinary laws should apply and the offender should be dealt with under them. "If some provisions of the law have to be strengthened, that could be considered. But Section 66A was not the answer," Chidambaram said.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has welcomed SC's decision to scrap 66A. He said: We respect communication of ideas on social media,not in favor of curtailing honest criticism,dissent on social media: RS Prasad”
A bench of justices J Chelameswar and R F Nariman had on February 26 reserved its judgement after Government concluded its arguments contending that section 66A of the Information Technology Act cannot be "quashed" merely because of the possibility of its "abuse".
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that the Government did not want to curtail the freedom of speech and expression at all which is enshrined in the Constitution, but the vast cyber world could not be allowed to remain unregulated.
However, the court had said that terms like 'illegal', 'grossly offensive' and 'menacing character' were vague expressions and these words were likely to be misunderstood and abused. Some of the petitions seek setting aside of section 66A of the Information Technology Act which empowers police to arrest a person for allegedly posting offensive materials on social networking sites.
The first PIL on the issue was filed in 2012 by a law student Shreya Singhal, who sought amendment in Section 66A of the Act, after two girls -- Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan -- were arrested in Palghar in Thane district as one of them posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's death and the other 'liked' it.
The apex court had on May 16, 2013, come out with an advisory that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested without police getting permission from senior officers like IG or DCP.
The direction had come in the wake of numerous complaints of harassment and arrests, sparking public outrage. It had, however, refused to pass an interim order for a blanket ban on the arrest of such persons across the country.
Also read the related links
All you need to know about Sec 66A: http://goo.gl/YxMf20
An unreasonable restriction: http://goo.gl/yC7jeq
Saving free speech from the police: http://goo.gl/KNIIUJ
Like it or not, comment is not free: http://goo.gl/9TKgTu
Does Section 66A curb or safeguard social media?: http://goo.gl/F3xyAY
First PIL filed by a law student Shreya Singhal: http://goo.gl/3dg8Xl
Also read the related stories
சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் தீர்ப்பால் கட்சி தலைவர்கள் கலக்கம்
பதிவு செய்த நாள்: 24 மார் 2015  23:54
புதுடில்லி: 'அரசியல் அமைப்புச் சட்டம், நாட்டு மக்கள் அனைவருக்கும் வழங்கியுள்ள, கருத்து தெரிவிக்கும் சுதந்திரம் மற்றும் பேச்சு சுதந்திரத்திற்கு எதிரான, தகவல் தொழில்நுட்ப சட்டத்தின், 66 - ஏ பிரிவை தொடர்ந்து செயல்பட அனுமதிக்க முடியாது' என்ற சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் உத்தரவு, காங்கிரஸ் தலைமையிலான முந்தைய, ஐக்கிய முற்போக்கு கூட்டணி மற்றும் பா.ஜ., தலைமையிலான இப்போதைய, தேசிய ஜனநாயக கூட்டணிக்கும் சிக்கலாக அமைந்துள்ளது.
காங்கிரஸ் மற்றும் பா.ஜ., கட்சிகளுக்கு தர்மசங்கடம்
ஏனெனில், இந்த கடுமையான சட்டம், காங்கிரஸ் அரசில் கொண்டு வரப்பட்டது. அந்தச் சட்டத்தை இப்போது சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் ரத்து செய்துள்ளது, அக்கட்சிக்கு தர்ம சங்கடமான நிலையை ஏற்படுத்தியுள்ளது. அதுபோல, இந்தச் சட்டத்தை ஆதரித்து, இரண்டு ஆண்டுகளாக, சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட்டில் மத்திய அரசு வாதிட்டு வந்துள்ளது. சர்ச்சைக்குரிய அந்த சட்டப் பிரிவை, சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் ரத்து செய்தது, இப்போதைய அரசுக்கும் தர்மசங்கடத்தை ஏற்படுத்தியுள்ளது.
மத்திய தகவல், தொழில்நுட்பத் துறை அமைச்சர் ரவிசங்கர் பிரசாத்
இதுகுறித்து, பா.ஜ.,வைச் சேர்ந்த மத்திய தகவல், தொழில்நுட்பத் துறை அமைச்சர் ரவிசங்கர் பிரசாத் கூறியதாவது: இந்த விவகாரத்தில், முந்தைய மன்மோகன் சிங் அரசுக்கும், எங்கள் அரசுக்கும் ஒரே மாதிரியான கருத்து இல்லை. காங்கிரஸ் அரசு, மக்களின் கருத்து சுதந்திரத்தை அடக்க முயன்றது. அந்த கருத்தில் எங்களுக்கு உடன்பாடில்லை. இவ்வாறு, அவர் கூறினார்.
சிவசேனா கட்சி
அது போலவே, சிவசேனா கட்சியும் கலக்கம் அடைந்துள்ளது. சிவசேனா தலைவர் பால் தாக்கரே மரணத்தின் போது, கடைகள் அடைக்கப்பட்டதை விமர்சித்து கருத்து தெரிவித்த, இரு இளம்பெண்கள் கைது செய்யப்பட்டனர். அதன் பின், இந்த விவகாரம் சூடுபிடித்ததால், சிவசேனாவுக்கும் இந்த தீர்ப்பு நெத்தியடியாக மாறியுள்ளது.
ஐக்கிய ஜனதாதளம் கட்சியின் தலைவர் சரத் யாதவ்
ஐக்கிய ஜனதாதளம் கட்சியின் தலைவர் சரத் யாதவும், சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் உத்தரவை ரசிக்கவில்லை. ''சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட்டை நான் மதிக்கிறேன். எனினும், இந்த உத்தரவு சரியானது தான் என்று கூற மாட்டேன். அவதூறு பரப்புபவர்களுக்கு எதிராக இருந்த அந்த பிரிவு ரத்து செய்யப்பட்டுள்ளதில் எனக்கு மகிழ்ச்சியில்லை,'' என, சரத் யாதவ் கூறினார்.
மகாராஷ்டிராவில் கைது செய்யப்பட்ட பெண் ரினு ஸ்ரீனிவாசன்
கருத்து சுதந்திரத்திற்கு ஆதரவான, வரலாற்றுச் சிறப்பு மிக்க இந்த தீர்ப்பை வழங்க காரணமாக இருந்த, 2012ல், பால் தாக்கரே மறைவின் போது, மகாராஷ்டிராவில் கைது செய்யப்பட்ட பெண் ரினு ஸ்ரீனிவாசன் கூறுகையில், இப்போது நான் மிகுந்த மகிழ்ச்சி அடைந்துள்ளேன். அந்த கைது சம்பவத்திற்கு பின், என் வாழ்க்கை மிகவும் மாறிப் போய்விட்டதை உணர்ந்தேன். நீதி கிடைத்து விட்டது என்பதை உணர்கிறேன். தொடர்ந்து என் கருத்துகளை, சமூக தொடர்பு இணையதளங்களில் வெளியிடுவேன் என்றார்.
முன்னாள் மத்திய அமைச்சர் சிதம்பரம்
முன்னாள் மத்திய அமைச்சர் சிதம்பரம் கூறுகையில், சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட்டின் உத்தரவை வரவேற்கிறேன். எங்கள் ஆட்சி காலத்தில், 2008ல் கொண்டு வரப்பட்ட இந்தச் சட்டத்தின், 66 - ஏ பிரிவு, சரியாக வரையப்படவில்லை என்பதை ஒப்புக் கொள்கிறேன். அந்தப் பிரிவு, தவறாக பயன்படுத்தக் கூடியது; தவறாக பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளது என்றார்.
எழுத்தாளர் பாமரன்
எழுத்தாளர் பாமரன் கூறுகையில். 66 - ஏ சட்டம் செல்லாது என, அறிவித்துள்ளது, வரவேற்கத்தக்கது. இது இடைவேளை தான். தனிப்பட்ட நபரின் அந்தரங்கம் என, எந்த விஷயமும் வலைதளங்களில் இல்லை. அமெரிக்கா போன்ற நாடுகள், கணினி வன்பொருளை வேவு பார்க்கும் மென்பொருளை வைத்துள்ளது. இந்நிலையில், உச்ச நீதிமன்றம் அளித்த தீர்ப்பு, முழு சுதந்திரத்தை அளிக்காது என்றார்.
கார்ட்டூனிஸ்ட் பாலா
கார்ட்டூனிஸ்ட் பாலா கூறுகையில், சமூக வலைதளங்களின் தாக்கம் அதிகமாக இருப்பதால், அரசுகளும் சரி, தனி மனிதர்களும் சரி, எதிர் கருத்துக்களைக் கண்டு எரிச்சல் அடைகின்றனர். சமூக வலைதளங்களில் எழுதுபவர்களும், தனிப் பக்கங்களை வைத்திருப்பவர்களும், அதை ஓர் ஊடகமாகக் கருதி பயன்படுத்த வேண்டும். அப்போது தான், அதற்கு தடை சட்டமும் வராது, அச்சட்டத்தை உச்ச நீதிமன்றம் ரத்தும் செய்யாது என கூறினார்.
திரைப்பட இயக்குனர் கீரா
திரைப்பட இயக்குனர் கீரா கூறுகையில்,சாதாரண பொதுமக்கள் கருத்து சொல்லும் தளமாக, சமூக வலைதளங்கள் உள்ளன. சாமான்யர்களின் கருத்து தான், சமூகத்தின் உண்மையான கருத்தாக இருக்கும். பிற ஊடகங்கள் சொல்ல முடியாத கருத்தை, சமூக வலைதளங்கள் தான், பிரதிபலிக்கின்றன. இந்நிலையில், தகவல் தொழில்நுட்பச் சட்டம் 66 - ஏ, ரத்து செய்யப்பட்டு உள்ளது வரவேற்கத்தக்கது என கூறினார்.  
Also read the related stories
Free speech Ver.2.0
March 25, 2015
With its judgment to strike down a legal provision for violating freedom of speech, the Supreme Court has paved the way for thoughtful jurisprudence in the age of the Internet
While describing Sec.124A of the IPC (sedition) as the “prince among the political sections designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”, Mahatma Gandhi offered us an ironic way of thinking about liberty-curbing laws through the metaphor of illegal tyrants. On that count, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Shreya Singhal versus Union of India case, striking down Sec.66A of the Information Technology Act can be seen as a welcome end to a short-lived but terribly tyrannical reign of a petty despot.
Over the past few years, Sec.66A has been used in a range of infamous instances, ranging from the Shaheen Dhada case (a young woman was arrested for an innocuous Facebook post) to the most recent incident of the arrest of a Class XI student for posting comments on his Facebook page that he attributed to Azam Khan, a Samajwadi Party Minister in Uttar Pradesh. As is perhaps appropriate for a law that struck at the very heart of Web 2.0 and social media, the challenge to its constitutional validity was brought by a 21-year-old law student, with other individuals and organisations subsequently joining the case. The proceedings before Justices Rohinton Nariman and G. Chelameswar were keenly followed and reported by many people on social media, and it is safe to say that the judgment was one of the most keenly anticipated decisions in recent times. The Supreme Court has not failed us in its role as the constitutional guardian against capricious laws that threaten our fundamental rights.
Three forms of speech
In a carefully reasoned decision, the court has struck down Sec. 66A in its entirety on grounds of vagueness, overreach, and the chilling effects it has on online speech. It also reads down Sec.79 (intermediary liability), holding that intermediaries are liable to take down content only upon receipt of actual knowledge from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government. It, however, upholds Sec. 69A and the rules under the IT Act (blocking of websites) on the grounds that there are internal safeguards and reasonable procedures available within Sec.69A.
The court begins by distinguishing between three forms of speech: discussion, advocacy and incitement, and holds that mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause, howsoever unpopular, is at the heart of Article 19(1)(a). It is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that Article 19(2) kicks in. The court finds that not only does Sec. 66A interfere with the right of the public to receive and disseminate information, the provision fails to distinguish between discussion, advocacy and incitement. It then goes on to discuss what standards constitute ‘reasonable restriction’. In the current case, the government had argued that we need to apply a more relaxed standard of reasonableness of restriction, with regard being kept for the fact that the medium of speech being the Internet, it differs from other media on several grounds. While the courts agree that the Internet may be treated separately from other communication media and that there could be separate laws that only deal with online speech, these laws still have to pass the test of reasonableness in Art.19(2).
Citing an important and often ignored free speech judgment, the Ram Manohar Lohia case (1960), the court holds that any restriction that has to be made in the interests of public order must have a reasonable relation to the object to be achieved, that is, public order. The relation should be one which has a proximate connection or nexus with public order, and not a far-fetched, hypothetical or remote relation. It then examines each of the grounds under Art.19(2) to find that 66A failed to establish a proximate connection to public order, incitement, defamation, and so on.
Finally, the court strikes down 66A on the grounds of ‘vagueness and over breadth’. According to the court, it is a vague law that impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application. This effectively summarises how Sec.66A has been misused in recent years. It also finds that 66A has a chilling effect on online speech because it overreaches and is “cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it, as any serious opinion dissenting with the mores of the day would be caught within its net. Such is the reach of the Section and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total”. [Read: The ‘reasonable’ man vs the ‘hypersensitive’ man]
The reason that the court finds it to be vague and overreaching is the absence of any distinction between different forms of speech, and in seeking to prevent speech that it thinks would cause ‘annoyance’, or is ‘grossly offensive’, it also takes within its sweep protected speech. The court implicitly acknowledges that the right to critique and the right to dissent are a substantive part of the freedom of speech and expression, and merely an individual’s or even a group’s annoyance with the speech of another cannot be the basis for curbing legitimate speech. The court is cognisant of a creeping intolerance within the political climate, and illustrates this in the following manner “A certain section of a particular community may be grossly offended or annoyed by communications over the Internet by “liberal views” — such as the emancipation of women or the abolition of the caste system or whether certain members of a non-proselytising religion should be allowed to bring persons within their fold who are otherwise outside the fold”.
Free speech in the 21st century
It is important to note that this is the first judgment in decades in which the Supreme Court has struck down a legal provision for violating freedom of speech, and in doing so, it simultaneously builds upon a rich body of free speech cases in India and paves the way for a jurisprudence of free speech in the 21st century, the era of the Internet and social media. It explicitly acknowledges that the Internet has radically democratised communication that allows for people to participate in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ and this ecology of communication has to be safeguarded from any inhibition by arbitrary laws. One wishes the court had paid closer attention to the arbitrary manner that the blocking rules work, but that is a gentle disagreement in light of its significant achievement on the substantive questions. It should also be noted that the judgment is the outcome of a new kind of political activism around free speech, which saw activists, lawyers, bloggers and social media coming together in a markedly different way from the segmented modes in which free speech battles have taken place in the past.
If this judgment heralds the coming into being of Free Speech Ver.2.0, we can’t wait for future updates. While we celebrate the judgment, it is important to remember that cases under Sec.66A have rarely ever been filed in isolation, and they are often accompanied by charges under sedition and hate speech laws (Sec.153A and 295A of the IPC). Further, even when the Supreme Court lays down good principles in its interpretation of substantive laws, these constitutional protections are undone by the flimsy criminal justice systems, which allow for mala fide complaints to be filed and acted upon in a manner that makes the procedure and the process the real punishment. If we are to truly create an ecology in which people can exercise speech fearlessly, it is crucial that we acknowledge that we are living under what Gopalkrishna Gandhi describes as an ‘unpromulgated state of fear’, and this judgment is a significant if only first step towards a braver, freer and more tolerant democracy.
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சகிப்பின்மைக்குக் கிடைத்த சவுக்கடி
Published: March 25, 2015 08:52 IST
தகவல் தொழில்நுட்பச் சட்டத்தின் 66 ‘ஏ’ பிரிவு, அரசியல் சட்டம் அளிக்கும் கருத்துச் சுதந்திரத்தைப் பறிக்கும் விதத்தில் இருப்பதால் செல்லாது என்று உச்ச நீதிமன்றம் தீர்ப்பளித்திருக்கிறது.
வகுப்புக் கலவரத்தை ஏற்படுத்தும் நோக்கிலோ, சமூகத்தில் ஒழுங்கைக் கெடுக்கும் விதத்திலோ, பிற நாடுகளுடன் இந்தியாவுக்குள்ள உறவைக் குலைக்கும் வகையிலோ கருத்துகள் பதிவிடப்பட்டால் அந்த இணையதளத்தை அரசு முடக்கிவைக்கலாம் என்றும் உச்ச நீதிமன்றம் இந்தத் தீர்ப்பில் கூறியுள்ளது. நீதிபதிகள் ஜே. சலமேஸ்வர், ரோஹின்டன் ஃபாலி நாரிமன் அடங்கிய அமர்வு வரலாற்று முக்கியத்துவம் வாய்ந்த இந்தத் தீர்ப்பை வெளியிட்டிருக்கிறது.
“தகவல்களை அறிந்துகொள்வதற்கு மக்களுக்குள்ள உரிமையைத் தகவல் தொழில்நுட்ப (ஐ.டி.) சட்டத்தின் 66 (ஏ) பிரிவு பாதிக்கிறது. அத்துடன், பேச்சுரிமை, கருத்துரிமை ஆகியவற்றுக்கும் குந்தகம் விளைவிக்கிறது. இந்தச் சட்டத்தில் விவரிக்கப்படும் ‘குற்றம்’, எந்த விதத்தில் ஆபத்தை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது என்பது தெளிவாகக் குறிப்பிடப் படவில்லை. இந்தச் சட்ட வாசகத்தில் இடம்பெற்றுள்ள வார்த்தைகள் ஒவ்வொருவரும் ஒவ்வொரு விதத்தில் பொருள் கொள்ளும் வகையில் அமைந்துள்ளன” என்று அமர்வு சுட்டிக்காட்டியிருக்கிறது.
மேலும், “விவாதம், ஒரு கருத்துக்கு ஆதரவு தேடுதல், தூண்டி விடுதல் என்ற மூன்றுக்கும் வேறுபாடுகள் இருக்கின்றன. ஒரு பொருள் பற்றி விவாதிப்பதோ, ஒரு கருத்துக்கு ஆதரவு திரட்டுவதோ சிலருக்கு எரிச்சலை ஊட்டினாலும் அதை அனுமதித்தாக வேண்டும்” என்றும் அமர்வு கூறியுள்ளது.
“ஒரு சட்டத்தைத் தவறாகப் பயன்படுத்தவும் வாய்ப்புகள் இருப்பதால், அந்தச் சட்டத்தையே அரசியல் சட்டத்துக்கு முரணானது என்று கூறிவிட முடியாது” என்று அரசுத் தரப்பில் வாதிடப்பட்டது. “பேச்சுரிமையையோ கருத்துரிமையையோ கட்டுப்படுத்த அரசு விரும்பவில்லை. அதே வேளையில், இணையதளம் போன்ற ‘சைபர்’ மேடைகளை எந்தவிதக் கட்டுப்பாடும் இல்லாமலும் அனுமதித்துவிட முடியாது” என்றும் அரசுத் தரப்பு கூறியிருக்கிறது.
உத்தரப் பிரதேசத்தில் மாநில அமைச்சரும் சமாஜ்வாதி கட்சியின் தலைவர்களில் ஒருவருமான ஆசம் கான் பற்றி முகநூலில் 18 வயது பள்ளி மாணவர் ஒருவர் தெரிவித்த கருத்து ஆட்சேபகரமானது என்பதால், தகவல் தொழில்நுட்பச் சட்டம் 66 (ஏ) பிரிவின் கீழ் கைது செய்யப்பட்டு சிறையில் அடைக்கப்பட்டார். இந்தக் கைது தொடர்பாக மாநில அரசிடம் விளக்கம் கேட்க வேண்டும் என்று தொடுக்கப்பட்ட வழக்கையும் உச்ச நீதிமன்றம் விசாரணைக்கு ஏற்றது. இந்த நிலையில், இந்தத் தீர்ப்பு முக்கியத்துவம் பெறுகிறது.
சிவசேனைத் தலைவர் இறந்தபோது ஃபேஸ்புக்கில் கருத்துத் தெரிவித்ததற்காக 2 இளம் பெண்களும், தற்போது ஒரு பள்ளிக்கூட மாணவரும் கைது செய்யப்பட்ட இதுபோன்ற சம்பவங்களிலிருந்து இந்தச் சட்டம் எப்படி சரியான ஆலோசனைகள் இன்றி, குழப்பம் தரும் விதத்தில் இயற்றப்பட்டிருக்கிறது என்பது தெரிகிறது. நல்ல சட்டங்களையே தவறாகப் பயன்படுத்தும் ஆட்சியாளர்கள், மோசமாக உருவாக்கப்பட்ட சட்டங்களை வைத்துக்கொண்டு அப்பாவிகளை எப்படி அலைக்கழிப்பார்கள் என்பதை விவரிக்க வேண்டியதில்லை. ஆகவே, சகிப்பின்மைக்குக் கிடைத்த சவுக்கடி என்றே உச்ச நீதிமன்றத்தின் தீர்ப்பைக் கருத வேண்டும்.
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SC strikes down ‘draconian’ Section 66A
NEW DELHI, March 24, 2015
JAYANT SRIRAM
‘It invades right to free speech, every expression used in it is nebulous’
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is unconstitutional in its entirety, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday striking down a “draconian” provision that had led to the arrests of many people for posting content deemed to be “allegedly objectionable” on the Internet.
“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 right,” said a Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman. The definition of offences under the provision was “open-ended and undefined”, it said.
The Bench turned down a plea to strike down sections 69A and 79 of the Act, which deal with the procedure and safeguards for blocking certain websites and exemption from liability of intermediaries in certain cases, respectively.
In the judgment, the court said the liberty of thought and expression was a cardinal value of paramount significance under the Constitution. Three concepts fundamental in understanding the reach of this right were discussion, advocacy and incitement. Discussion, or even advocacy, of a particular cause, no matter how unpopular it was, was at the heart of the right to free speech and it was only when such discussion or advocacy reached the level of incitement that it could be curbed on the ground of causing public disorder.
The court then went on to say that Section 66A actually had no proximate connection with public order or with incitement to commit an offence. “The information disseminated over the Internet need not be information which ‘incites’ anybody at all. Written words may be sent that may be purely in the realm of ‘discussion’ or ‘advocacy’ of a ‘particular point of view’. Further, the mere causing of annoyance, inconvenience, danger, etc., or being grossly offensive or having a menacing character are not offences under the [Indian] Penal Code at all,” the court held.
Holding several terms used in the law to define the contours of offences as “open-ended, undefined and vague”, the court said: “Every expression used is nebulous in meaning. What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another.”
The court pointed out that a penal law would be void on the grounds of vagueness if it failed to define the criminal offence with sufficient definiteness. “Ordinary people should be able to understand what conduct is prohibited and what is permitted. Also, those who administer the law must know what offence has been committed so that arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law does not take place,” the court said.
SC rejects Centre’s plea
Striking down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the Centre’s plea that it was committed to free speech and would ensure that the provision was administered in a reasonable manner.
“If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved by an assurance from the learned Additional Solicitor-General that it will be administered in a reasonable manner. Governments may come and governments may go, but Section 66A goes on forever. An assurance from the present government, even if carried out faithfully, would not bind any successor govt.,” the court said.
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சட்டப்படி குத்தமில்லையாம்!
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