The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its dismay and asked is it true, that the people were still being arrested under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act despite the fact that the provision was struck down by the apex court in 2015.
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act provision made a person land in jail for three years for posting any “offensive, annoying or inconvenient” materials on social media sites.
“We are going to take strict action if the list related to arrest is correct,” a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran said.
The top court issued a notice to the Union government and others on a writ petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
The court told the Union government’s counsel to file its response within four weeks.
The PUCL, represented by advocate Sanjay Parikh, claimed though the apex court quashed the provision of Section 66A of the IT Act, there were reports on arrest having been made under it.
“It is shocking,” the bench said.
Section 66A was dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping.
The apex court on March 24, while quashing Section 66A of the IT Act, held that it was violative of the Constitution’s Article 19(1)(a) guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression.
The apex court’s judgement had come on a batch of petitions, including one by Shreya Singhal, questioning the arrest of two girls – Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan – for posting on social media comments critical of Mumbai bandh in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
“Section 66A is cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it, as any serious opinion dissenting with the mores of the day would be caught within its net. Such is the reach of the Section and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total,” the top court had held.