Yasir Altaf Zargar
The draconian act is no more. The supreme court of India few days back gave its verdict to struck down Section 66A of the Information & Technology Act claiming it as unconstitutional. The Information Technology Act that made posting “offensive” comments or hatred posts online or electronically a crime punishable by jail for the period of three years.The court quashed the controversial act, saying the section violated the fundamental right to freedom of expression, under article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution.It is 1st time in the history of India that they gave importance to “free speech” rather than the act.
What is Section 66A of IT act?
The Information Technology Act 2000 was amended in the year 2008. This amended act contains the much debated 66A section. It imposes punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service.
According to CIS-India.org, 66A applies to these cases:
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, —
(a) Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) Any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages shall be punishable with imprisonment for the period of three years or less and with fine.
Who Filed PIL And Why?
The first PIL on the issue was filed in 2012 by law student ShreyaSinghal, who sought amendment in section 66A of the act after two girls — ShaheenDhada and RinuShrinivasan — were arrested in Palghar in Thane district after one of them posted a comment on Facebook against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ the post
In the wake of numerous complaints of harassment and arrests, the apex court had on May 16, 2013 issued 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.After the apex court reserved its judgement in the matter on February 26 this year, another controversial case hogged the limelight for alleged misuse of section 66A in which a boy was arrested on March 18 for allegedly posting on Facebook objectionable comments against senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.
The draconian act invades internet freedom. It arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech.This act was misused by bureaucrats and politicians to suppress their enemies in a legal way. In the past few years, the provision has been invoked to make several arrests. On behalf of the victims, several petitions were moved in the Supreme Court, and these were heard at length by the court.
As we all know India is diverse nation, though freedom of free speech is in its main fundamental principles. Every person has his own right to express his views verbally or non- verbally. A person has right of free speech, and can comment his views regarding any person on internet or by using any electronic mean. Although there are many acts which can lead to blocking of those websites which post abusive content or any offensive comment. Arresting people on giving their personal views or comments will increase hate among masses towards government and may lead to civil war against government.
If the act was not taken down, the dream of making digital media will be amystery for BJP government. To make India digitalise with modern internet technologies; every person has right to express his views in or against it. Every person can give his personal verdict for any minister or any bureaucrat, can post joke and can make cartoons all it comes under person’s personal views. Those who are in power must be tolerant and liberal towards criticism.The draconian acts needs to be taken down to save India from abrogating freedom of speech as the act in question struck down had occupied freedom of speech.
After the Supreme Court’s verdict, each and every person on social networking portals thanked ShreyaSinghal for filing PIL. Now any person can post his views, on electronic and social portal,can raise their voice for any politician who is harassing people with his power without any fear of getting arrest. For this reason or another, people are likely to shout “ShreyaZindabad” or “Freedom of speech Zindabad”.
YasirAltafZargaris a Security Analyst from Srinagar and the first Kashmiri to be acknowledgedbyGoogle, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Nokia,Adobe, and Apple.He Tweets as @zargaryasir.