Centre asks states not to file cases under axed Section 66A of IT Act

Representational image: Sabphoto/Shutterstock

New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has asked states and Union Territories to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

It has also asked the states and the 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 said that if any case has been booked in states and the UTs under Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, they should be immediately withdrawn.

Section 66A made posting "offensive" comments online a crime punishable by a jail term of three years.

The Supreme Court, in its judgment on March 24, 2015 in the matter of Shreya Singhal versus Union of India, had struck down Section 66A, making it null and void with effect from the date of the order, and hence, no action could be taken under this section.

Last week, the SC had expressed shock after learning that people were still being booked and tried under Section 66A even six years after the top court struck down the provision as "unconstitutional and a violation of free speech".

On July 5, a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman and comprising Justices K M Joseph and B R Gavai said: "It is still going on, amazing... What is going on is terrible, distressing."

Justice Nariman noted, "Please read my dissent in the Sabarimala case for Article 144".

The top court's observation came on a plea by NGO PUCL seeking a direction to the Centre to issue advisory to all police stations against registering of FIR under Section 66A.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing the NGO, submitted that before Section 66A was struck down, there were 687 cases under it. "However, after the section was struck down, there are as many as 1,307 cases...It is shocking," added Parikh.

Attorney general Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, contended that even if it is struck down by the division bench, the section 66A is still there. He added that when police have to register a case, the section is still there and it only has a footnote that the top court has struck down. "There has to be a bracket in 66A with words struck down," said the AG.

The bench responded, "You file a counter as it is shocking state of affairs."

After hearing arguments, the top court issued notice and scheduled the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The NGO has argued that Section 66A of the IT Act is still in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across the country.

(With IANS inputs)

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.