By Anshul Tewari:
In a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India, the draconian Section 66A of the IT Act (which allowed arrests for objectionable content online) has been struck down. Calling it unconstitutional and untenable, the Supreme Court upheld our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. The bench also clearly stated, “Government may come and government may go but Section 66A will always remain on the statute… whatever is otherwise invalid cannot be held to be valid by making a statement that it will be administered well,” Earlier this year, after the All India Bakchod roast was banned, I wrote a post detailing out how we might be nearing the death of free speech in India – how cases such as those of Shaheen Dadha and Rinu Srinivasan, and many others represented our misplaced priorities.
In its entirety, 66A was a roadblock to not just India’s fundamental right, but also to the openness of the internet – the democratic and free framework it represents. With the coming of the BJP Government, the number of bans and cases filed under 66A grew rapidly – showing the Government’s intolerance towards things they disagreed with, and what the right wing extremist groups did not like. Moreover, the Government also supported the curb on the internet, which made 66A a dangerous tool in the hands of the party in power.
With the striking down of 66A, free speech gets a boost in a democracy where getting your sentiments hurt is indeed a full time job. However, what must be noted is that Section 69A of the IT Act, which gives the Government the power to block the websites that it finds offensive, still remains intact.
The battle is half won – but this victory is definitely worth celebrating!