Section 66 A of IT Act, by Shaji George Kochuthara
The Supreme Court of India, on 24 March 2015 struck down section 66 A of the IT Act. (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/66a-it-act-freedom-of-speech-supreme-court-constitution/1/425447.html; http://www.financialexpress.com/article/industry/supreme-court-scraps-section-66a-of-it-act-4-top-facts/57218/ ; http://www.livemint.com/Politics/tZqSAaeXBTkrWBCcSKxqOP/Supreme-Court-strikes-down-controversial-Section-66A-of-IT-A.html)
Section 66A: “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.”
The court said that the possibilities of this act being misused were high and that the act was unconstitutional and hence it did not have any hesitation in striking it down. Though the Government Additional Solicitor General argued in favour of the Act, saying that the cyber world was to be regulated, the court did not accept his objections.
In recent years many were arrested for posting “offensive comments”. It was sufficient that someone complained that the comments on the social media/on the internet was offensive to him/her. On some occasions the police had registered cases against those who posted comments on those in authority. Thus, section 66A of the Indian IT Act had become a draconian law, denying the freedom of speech, which the very life of democracy.
It may be strange that democratically elected governments, once they are in power, attempt in all possible ways to control the freedom of speech and any dissenting opinion. The police, the administrative and legal systems, etc. are used (misused!) to curtail the freedom of people.
Although Section 66 A of the IT Act is cancelled, there are still provisions in other sections to misuse the power and to curtail the freedom of expression of people.
Civil/political authorities are not the only ones who show this tendency to limit the freedom of speech. Rather, this tendency is very much visible in religious circles as well. The difference would be that in the case of religion, divine authority also will be evoked to limit the freedom of expression.
Any society needs regulation. Freedom should be used with responsibility; freedom of expression also should be used with responsibility in such a way that one’s freedom does not destroy the freedom and well being of others. At the same time, denying the freedom of expression and possibility of open dialogue will not help human society or religions to grow further. Silencing those who criticise may deny the possibility of correcting oneself.