A little bit over every week after the Supreme Court docket had termed the continued use of Part 66A of the Info Expertise Act, 2000 as “a surprising state of affairs”, the Ministry of Residence Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday requested states and Union Territories to direct all police stations below their jurisdiction to not register instances below the repealed part of the IT Act.
It has additionally suggested that instances lodged in states and UTs below Part 66A needs to be instantly withdrawn.
Final week, the apex courtroom had termed the continued use of Part 66A by legislation enforcement companies of varied states — regardless of the availability being struck down by the courtroom in 2015 — as “a surprising state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.
Part 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, by way of their subjective discretion, might construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the needs of inflicting annoyance, inconvenience, and so forth. It prescribed the punishment for sending messages by laptop or some other communication system like a cell phone or a pill, and a conviction might fetch a most of three years in jail.
Lawyer Basic Ok Ok Venugopal had advised the bench that Part 66A nonetheless stays within the Act although it was struck down by the division bench. “When police has to register a case, the part remains to be there and there may be solely a footnote that the Supreme Court docket has struck it down,” he had stated, including, “there needs to be a bracket in 66A with the phrases struck down.”
“You file a counter as it’s a surprising state of affairs,” Justice Nariman had replied. The AG sought two weeks to file a reply and the request was granted by the courtroom.
The apex courtroom was listening to a plea filed by the NGO Individuals’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which stated that “regardless of the judgment, it grew to become clear from the newspaper studies that the stated provision continued to be invoked by the State’s investigative equipment in addition to the judiciary, in all probability below the impression that Part 66A remained on the statute books”.
Referring to knowledge collated by “impartial researchers”, the plea stated that “as on 10.03.2021, as many as a complete of 745 instances are nonetheless pending and energetic earlier than the Districts Courts in 11 States — Maharashtra main the tally with 381 instances below 66A after it was struck down adopted by UP with 245 such instances after the closing date — whereby accused individuals are being prosecuted for offences below Part 66A of the IT Act” and that there could possibly be many extra such instances when knowledge of extra states is extracted.
The Supreme Court docket had struck down Part 66A in 2015 after accepting the competition that the availability was “very extensively drafted” and gave arbitrary powers to cops to make arrests.
Earlier than the courtroom order, there had been widespread considerations that points, which may be construed to be “offensive” and accountable for motion below the availability, have been loosely outlined, leaving floor for misinterpretation and misuse of the legislation.
One of many earliest petitions difficult 66A had come after the arrest of two ladies in Maharashtra by Thane Police in November 2012 over a Fb put up. The ladies had made feedback on the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of the then Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
Most instances of arrests below 66A that attracted criticism date again to 2012. Jadavpur College professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested for forwarding caricatures on Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Fb, activist Aseem Trivedi was held for drawing cartoons lampooning Parliament and the Structure to depict their ineffectiveness, and an Air India worker was arrested for allegedly posting offensive feedback in opposition to politicians on a Fb group.