The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law & Justice, to decide the representation by a lawyer, alleging that people are still being booked by the police under scrapped legal provisions.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Amit Bansal was hearing the plea filed by Advocate Anshul Bajaj, seeking removal of unconstitutional sections from the statute books.
The Bench, while disposing of the plea, asked the concerned authorities to decide on the representation made by Bajaj on August 25, 2021. “The decision will be taken by the concerned respondent authorities in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies applicable to facts of the case, as early as possible and practicable,” observed the Court.
The plea pointed out various provisions that have been struck down by the Apex Court, including Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code that laid down punishment for murder by life convict, Section 377 of IPC that criminalised ‘unnatural sex’, Section 497 of IPC wherein punishment for adultery was prescribed, and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which made sending of offensive messages or menacing information using computer resource as a punishable offence.
Relying on a news report published in The Print on July 5, 2021, the plea claimed that the defunct IT provision continued to be in use not only by police officials, but also in various trial courts across the nation, which even went to the extent of framing charges under the scrapped provision.
The plea further pointed out that a petition was filed before the Apex Court by NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties, alleging that thousands of cases have been registered under the scrapped Section 66A of IT Act, even after six years of it being declared unconstitutional. The Court termed the incidents of continuous prosecution of people under the unconstitutional IT provision as ‘shocking’ and ‘terrible’.
The plea highlighted that a representation was made by the petitioner on August 25 before the Ministry of Home Affairs, requesting for removal of scrapped provisions from statute books; but no action has been taken by the concerned authorities as yet.
In light of the above, the plea, in addition to removal of unconstitutional sections from the statute, also sought availability of the relevant amended criminal law books/bare acts and the Judgments of the Apex Court and different State High Courts, so as to publicise the obligations and responsibilities of police officers to increase awareness about different laws and sections to police staff and complainants, who come to police stations.
“It is a well-settled law that every Judgement/Order/Direction of the Supreme Court is the Law of the land, one cannot say that it is binding on courts, but not on police or governments. However, there are several Criminal Law sections that were struck down by the Supreme Court, but continue to be booked/ in use by the police officials,”
-noted the petition.