With an aim to safeguard the right to freedom of speech & expression as well as the internet freedom, the Supreme Court has given a historical judgement by scrapping the Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, which allows police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet.
The apex court has earned a lot of praise from every section of society for this commendable verdict. However, the court allowed the government to block websites if their content had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries.
The court said that the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A and the Section clearly affects the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Constitution of India. Not only this, the court also termed Section 66A as unconstitutional because it failed two major tests – the clear and present danger test and the tendency to create public disorder test.
During the hearing process, the court also found the language used in the Section vague and nebulous saying it doesn’t properly define words like ‘offensive’ or even ‘persistent’. On this, the court said that we can’t go by government assurances that the Section won’t be misused as any assurance would not bind on successive governments. Therefore, Section 66 A needs to be judged on its own merits.
Making it more clear, the court said that there is a difference between discussion, advocacy and incitement. Discussion & advocacy, no matter if annoying to some people, has to be allowed.
What Section 66A says: