New Delhi :
The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that no citizen can be prosecuted under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which it had abolished in 2015. Under the repealed section, a person who posts objectionable content can be jailed for up to three years and also fined.
Instructions to all states and police officers
A bench headed by Chief Justice U.U Lalit said that in all such cases where citizens are facing prosecution for violation of Section 66-A of the Act, the reference to the said provision shall be deleted.
We direct all Directors General of Police as well as Home Secretaries of States and competent authorities of Union Territories not to take action against the alleged violation of Article 66A by the entire police force in their respective States/UTs. to direct and not register any complaint of offence.
The apex court struck down this provision on March 24, 2015, stating that the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
The Supreme Court clarified that the directive would apply only in relation to an offense punishable under Section 66A and if the relevant offense included other offences, the reference and reliance on Section 66A alone would be omitted.
The bench said that the counsel for the Center has placed on record the All India Status Report regarding pending cases under Section 66A. It observed that information shows that despite the Supreme Court ruling on the validity of Section 66A of the Act, many criminal proceedings still depend on this provision and citizens are still facing trial.
“Such criminal proceedings are in our view in accordance with the directions issued by this Court in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (judgment of March 2015) and consequently we issue these directions,” the bench said.
Needless to repeat, this Court in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India found Section 66A of the 2000 Act to be violative of the Constitution and thus cannot be prosecuted against any citizen.