Triumph of freedom of speech: Supreme Court strikes out Section 66A

03TH_SUPREME_COURT_2351325fAlmost three years ago, the arrest of two Mumbai girls –-Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan — for an innocuous post on Facebook left law graduate Shreya Singhal outraged.

In a victory for Shreya and countless others who have been rooting for freedom of speech, the Supreme Court on March 24 struck down Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, which allows police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet.

The court, however, allowed the government to block websites if their content had the potential to create communal mischief, social disorder or adversely affect India’s relationship with other countries.

The bench said the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66 A and underlined that this section clearly affects the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Constitution of India.

Singhal, a law student who had filed the first petition challenging the validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, was jubilant after court verdict.

The apex court, while passing its ruling observed that the section 66A of the Indian Constitution violates the 19(1)A act of  the Constitution.

India’s top court, while maintaining that Section 66A “affects freedom of expression and speech”, said, “what may be offensive to a person may not be offensive to others”.

Some of the major cases where Section 66 impacted the freedom of speech and expression previously included, among others:

Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan: The two young girls were arrested in 2012 when one of them put up a post on Facebook questioning the shut-down of Mumbai city on Bal Thackeray’s funeral, while the other one was arrested for liking the post. After the judgement, Srinivasan says she was happy and relieved. “I’m feeling very happy, we have got justice after 2 years” said RinuSrinivasan (Palghar girl) after the Supreme Court declared the decision.

Ambikesh Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta, the Jadavpur University professor, were arrested for forwarding caricatures on Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee in 2012. “Victory for common man, democratic & human rights of people has been protected,” a vindicated Mahapatra said.

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