Section 66A

 

Information Technology Act, 2000 was amended in 2009 to insert a new section, Section 66A which was said to address cases of cyber crime with the advent of technology and the internet.[1] Section 66(A) of the Act criminalises the sending of offensive messages through a computer or other communication devices.  Under this provision, any person who by means of a computer or communication device sends any information that is: [2]

  1. grossly offensive;
  2. false and meant for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will;
  3. meant to deceive or mislead the recipient about the origin of such messages, etc, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three years and with fine.

In 2015, the apex court had been called upon to examine the constitutional validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and its various parameters from the perspective of the various principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution. [3] In an unprecedented judgement, enshrined in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the apex court declared that the said section was unconstitutional, marking the day as a time of jubilation for free speech activists. [4] This judgement is historical because it is the first major judgment which has interpreted the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. [5]

Section 66A was tremendously misused in various cases and was struck down by the Supreme Court because of two main reasons: [6]

  • The SC had noted that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictionsthat may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.
  • The court also said that the provision, introduced in 2009 to the original Act of 2000, used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning. “What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another. Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

Post this judgment, there has been an increase in incidents of cyber bullying and targeting people on social media because somehow people get a feeling that the law has now been struck off, they have a license to defame. [7]

  1. Pavan Duggal’s Articles on Section 66A of Information Technology Act
  1. Year 2012 and Section 66A of Indian Cyberlaw, The Economic Times January 9, 2013
  2. Pavan Duggal via Live Web Chat on the essence of Sec 66A of the Information Technology Act.
  3. 66A- “Friend or Foe?
  4. Covering act Social Media & Section 66A of Indian Cyber Law
  5. A Great Service To The Cause Of Free Speech
  6. IT Leaders, Lawyers Welcome SC Ruling on 66A of the IT Act
  1. Section 66A- Quoting Pavan Duggal
  1. How not to get arrested under 66A for your online chatter
  2. Are social experiments losing the plot?
  3. How 66(A) of IT Act can be dangerous for an internet/technology user: Explained
  4. Cyber bullying is a crime, but open to interpretation: Expert
  5. FIR against BJP leader for hurting religious sentiments
  6. Maharashtra Police to book those who like derogatory content on Facebook
  7. School’s the new stomping ground for cyber bullies
  8. Facebook comment case: Time to amend the IT Act?
  9. Section 66 (A) of IT Act continues to remain in the eye of storm
  10. Time For Telcos To Reform Dues-Recovery Processes?
  11. The freedom of expression debate: The State must mend fences with The Web
  12. Kapil Sibal reins in section 66 (A) with a rider
  13. India wakes up to the threat of high-tech rumour mongering
  14. India needs stricter child porn laws
  15. Should kids be punished for online abuse?
  16. ‘Centre’s guideline on Sec 66 (A) of IT Act has no backing of law’
  17. ‘A safe Internet and a free Internet can co-exist’
  18. Internet freedom at last: Section 66 A of IT act struck down
  19. IT Leaders, Lawyers Welcome SC Ruling on 66A of the IT Act
  20. The judgment that silenced Section 66A
  21. Local court invokes annulled Sec 66A to convict a man 
  1. Section 66A- Media Reports
  2. Section 66A: Relief Soon?
  3. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act
  4. Section 66A a necessary deterrent, says government
  5. Freedom Of Speech vs Section 66A
  6. Explained: Article 66 A
  7. Supreme Court seeks clarity on ‘infirmity’ in Section 66A
  8. Section 66A: Nightmare for citizens who dare to dissent
  9. Section 66A has no place in free society
  10. Centre defends section 66A of IT act in Supreme Court hearing, says Internet need curbs
  11. Govt backs Section 66A of IT Act, seeks stricter restrictions on Internet
  12. As SC Rules On Sec 66A Of IT Act Which Curbs Our Voice Online, We Ask For The Internet To Be Free
  13. Why Section 66A of IT Act Must not be Expunged?
  14. Misuse of Section 66A of the IT Act
  15. FB post: only partial relief to teenager
  16. After 66A is scrapped, Sec 67 of same Act lands Chennai techie in jail
  17. What 66A Judgment Means For Free Speech Online
  18. WhatsApp jokes to Facebook posts: How Section 66A was abused in Kashmir
  19. 66A gone, cops told to drop section from FIR of accused
  20. Some of the infamous cases registered under under Sec 66A of the IT Act
  21. Sec 66A Law Is Gone, Now The Lawlessness Will Begin
  22. Section 66A Of The Information Technology (IT) Act: Good Riddance!

[1]Apoorva, ‘A Background to Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000’ (PRS Legislative Research, 24 March 2015) <https://www.prsindia.org/hi/theprsblog/background-section-66a-it-act-2000> accessed 29 June 2019

[2] ibid

[3] Pavan Duggal, ‘Why 2015 Was A Landmark Year For Indian Cyberlaw’ (Huffpost, 1 March, 2016)  <https://www.huffingtonpost.in/pavan-duggal-/2015-a-landmark-year-for-_b_8898122.html> accessed 29 June 2019

[4] ibid

[5]Pavan Duggal, ‘Supreme Court and Indian Cyberlaw – 2015: A Roundup’ (Business Standard, 31 December 2015) <https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/supreme-court-and-indian-cyberlaw-2015-a-roundup-115123100977_1.html> accessed 29 June 2019

[6] ‘Section 66 of the IT Act’ (InsightsIAS, 8 January 2019) <https://www.insightsonindia.com/2019/01/08/section-66a-of-the-it-act/> accessed 29 June 2019

[7] Pavan Duggal, ‘Supreme Court and Indian Cyberlaw – 2015: A Roundup’ (Business Standard, 31 December 2015) <https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/supreme-court-and-indian-cyberlaw-2015-a-roundup-115123100977_1.html> accessed 29 June 2019