Section 66A of IT Act

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    • Recently, the Supreme Court expressed concerns over states continuing to register FIRs for offences under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act despite the court holding it unconstitutional in 2015.

    About Section 66A of IT Act

    • Shreya Singhal v. Union of India: 
      • In 2015, the apex court struck down the law in the landmark case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, calling it open-ended and unconstitutionally vague, and thus expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet.
        • It was violative of Article 19(1) (a) and not saved under Article 19(2).
        • Article 19(1) (a) gives people the right to speech and expression whereas 19(2) gives the state the power to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of this right.
    • What did Section 66A do?
      • Introduced in 2008, the amendments to the IT Act, 2000, gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
    • Punishment:
      • It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
    • Why was the law criticised?
      • The problem was with the vagueness about what is “offensive”. The word having a very wide connotation was open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
      • Most of the terms used in the section had not been specifically defined under the Act and the petitions argued that the law was a potential tool to gag legitimate free speech online, and to curtail freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
    • Section 79:
      • It is now at the centre of the ongoing intermediary liability battle between the Centre and micro-blogging platform Twitter defining key rules for the relationship between governments and commercial internet platforms.
        • Section 79 says that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform. 

    Source: IE