On 21 March, 2018, a petition of Vaibhav Aggarwal vs State Of Uttarakhand And Another was filed for the quashing of a 2017 order passed by 2nd Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Dehradun. The order responded to the 2016 case of State Vs. Vaibhav Aggarwal.
The said case was based on an FIR lodged by Shakeb Rizbi on the grounds that he had received religiously hurtful messages via the social media platform Facebook. After much investigation, the summons for the accused was prepared in light of Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The responding petition submitted that the decision was not taken in complete cognizance. According to advocate Mrs. Pushpa Joshi, the quoted Section 66-A had been scrapped from the Information Technology Act in 2015. Hence, the grounds for the case were irrelevant from the start of the investigation.
Are you concerned about free speech evasion in our country? So am I, so is the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of India is currently making headlines by its landmark warning to the Centre over the prevalent use of a null and void Sectional Amendment. However after tedious campaigns by propagators of free speech, the Section was scrapped from the Amendment. Even since then, almost 1000 cases have been filed under the omitted Section.
So what is Section 66-A?
Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 declared the online posting of “offensive” comments a punishable offence.
The Act was stated in the Constitution of India as follows:
[ 66A Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc. -Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device; or
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Explanation. -For the purpose of this section, terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message. ]
Offensive communication through images, videos, and messages were made a punishable offence.
By the word of the Amendment, any person communicating through messages or media anything that was considered offensive, annoying, or unconstitutional by the investigating parties could be jailed for a term of three years. Unanimous outcry was expressed against the possible indiscriminate use of this Section. Multiple lawyers, free speech activists, politicians and civilians eventually joined hands with Shreya Singhal – the first person to petition against the act.
After a tedious and drawn out process of almost three years, the apex court launched its verdict on the case petition. It observed the following points while omitting the Section from the Amendment:
Section 69A and Section 79 of the IT act continue to remain in effect till date.