SC asks Centre to hold discussion with State Chief Secretaries on Section 66A of the IT Act

New Delhi, September 6: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to have a discussion with the chief secretaries of the states where FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act were being registered despite the provision being scrapped by it in 2015.
A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat asked chief secretaries of all states to take remedial measures to tackle the continued use of section 66A of the IT Act.
“We direct advocate Zoheb Hossain for Central government to get in touch with concerned Chief Secretaries of respective States where offences are being registered or pending so that the Chief Secretaries take remedial measures. Mr Hossain shall be rendered due assistance by the concerned advocates appearing for the States. Mr Hossain can write to Chief Secretaries to communicate and the concerned advocates to submit a detailed affidavit on steps taken,” the bench stated in its order.
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by the NGO Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which highlighted the issue of Section 66A of the IT Act being invoked despite the judgment of the top court.
Under section 66A of the IT Act, which was scrapped by the top court in 2015, a person posting offensive messages could be imprisoned for up to three years and also fined.
During the hearing, advocate Hossain submitted that the Central government has communicated the top court’s judgment on Section 66A to all the Chief Secretaries of States.
To this, the bench asked the Centre to get in touch with state governments to take remedial action. “It is a matter of serious concern that despite authoritative pronouncement, the offences are still being registered and continued,” the bench noted.
The apex court now posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for PUCL, submitted details of the cases registered by the Police and law enforcement agencies under Section 66A of the IT Act even after the top court had struck it down.
The plea, seeking implementation of the top court’s verdict, has submitted that Section 66A of the IT Act has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before the trial courts across the country.
Last year on July 5, the apex court had said it is “amazing and shocking” that people are still being booked under Section 66A of the IT Act which was scrapped by its verdict.
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court had in 2015, held that Section 66A is not only “vague and arbitrary” but it also “disproportionately invades the right of free speech”. (Agencies)