The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that no one should be prosecuted under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Court in the Shreya Singhal case in 2015.
The Court issued a plethora of directives to the Director Generals of Police and Home Secretaries of all states, requiring them to erase all references to Section 66A from all pending cases. The Court further ordered that the bare acts of the IT Act be published in a way that appropriately informs readers that Section 66A has been declared unlawful.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued orders barring the prosecution of persons in cases alleging violations of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The bench, which included Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, and Justice Ajay Rastogi, was hearing a writ petition brought by the NGO ‘Peoples Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL), which raised the issue of Section 66A IT Act being invoked despite the Shreya Singhal case verdict.
During its previous hearings, the court directed the Union Government to contact the Chief Secretaries of the states where FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act were still being recorded, despite the provision being deemed illegal by the Court in 2015. The Court had requested that the Union urge such states to take “remedial measures as soon as practicable.”
Advocate Zoheb Hussain, representing the Union of India, filed an All-India Status report on Section 66A concerns. The bench remarked that, despite the fact that the constitutionality of Section 66A was addressed in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, a number of offences and criminal procedures still relied on the provision of Section 66A of the 2000 Act, and persons were still facing prosecution under it. The bench acknowledged the gravity of the situation and observed, “Such actions are directly violating Shreya Singhal’s orders.”
As a result, the bench issued the following instructions:
- It needs no reiteration that Section 66A is found to be in violation of the Constitution and as such no citizen can be prosecuted for violation of alleged offences under Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000.
- In all cases where citizens are facing prosecution for violations of Section 66A, the reference and reliance upon 66A from all crimes shall stand deleted.
- We direct all Director Generals of police, Home Secretaries and competent officers in States and Union Territories to direct the entire police force not to register any complaint with respect to violation of Section 66A. This direction shall apply only with reference to Section 66A. If the crime has other facets, where other offences are also alleged, those shall not be deleted.
- Whenever any publication, whether government, semi government, or private, about IT Act is published and Section 66A is quoted, readers must be adequately informed that the provisions of 66A have been pronounced upon by this court as to be violative of Constitution.
CASE: PEOPLES UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES v. UNION OF INDIA