First of all, what was this Section 66A? Yeah, I know many people don’t know what exactly it is. Well Section 66A reads: “Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”
So basically, it meant that if you post anything offensive on any social media site, the police could arrest you. Broadly, argument by most of the petitioners was that section 66A was imprecise which gave ample scope for a random interpretation; abuse of power was taking place and misuse of the provision by police. And this act violated the fundamental right freedom of speech.
Many such incidents have taken place till date. For instance, in 2012 two young women, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan, were arrested by the police for posting some critical comments on the total shutdown in Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief.
Similarly, in Kolkata, a professor Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University was arrested for forwarding a cartoon about Mamta Banerjee.
Cartoonist Assem Trivedi was arrested by police in Mumbai because his website publicised cartoons that mocked parliament and corruption in high places.
Most recently, a teenager found himself in police lock-up because of something he shared on Facebook that was considered to be objectionable about a challenging remark made by Azam Khan, that later turned out to be fake. The complainant, a supporter of the politician, said the youth’s comments could provoke communal tensions and spoil peace and harmony. Now Azam Khan is so offended by the Facebook post that a special branch of Rampur police was made to swing into action and the youth was nabbed from his home. A judicial magistrate sent him on a 14-day remand. Eventually, he was released on two bail bonds of Rs. 20,000 each.
The court apprehended that Section 66A could not be seen as a “reasonable restriction” on an individual’s right to speech and expression. While reading out the judgement in the court today, Justice J Chelameswar and RF Nariman said “Section 66A is unconstitutional and we have no hesitation in striking it down, the public’s right to know is directly affected by section 66A.” Sec 66 A has “no element to create public disorder, as claimed by the govt defending the section,” the judges said.
After the decision, Shreya Singhal (the petitioner) was ecstatic by the court verdict. She said, “I am ecstatic. It was grossly offensive to our rights, our freedom of speech and expression and today the Supreme Court has upheld that.”
By giving priority to the mango people of our country over the prevailing politicians and understanding the consequences and scraping out such laws, Supreme Court has shown that they are trying to take India towards a new dimension. They are trying to improve our nation by smoothing the constitutional rights of citizens, by giving priority to the mango people of our country over the powerful politicians and are taking Indian democracy to a new level.