The Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition, which showed that cases were being registered under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, some seven years after the section was declared unconstitutional by the Apex Court.
The bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman, K.M. Joseph and B.R. Gavai issued notice to the Central government to file a counter-affidavit within two weeks on the petition, which had sought direction to advise all police stations against registering FIRs under Section 66A, which had been struck down on March 24, 2015 by the Supreme Court.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh represented petitioner NGO, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Appearing for the Central government, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said, “Even if it is struck down by the Division Bench, Section 66A is still there. When police has to register a case, the Section is still there and only has a footnote that the Supreme Court has struck it down. There has to be a bracket in 66A with words ‘struck down’.”
The Court then asked the Centre to file a response within two weeks. During the hearing, Justice Nariman said, “Amazing. What is going on is terrible.” In an application filed through Advocate Aparna Bhat, the petitioner NGO apprised the apex court about the continuing use of Section 66A of the IT Act, not only by police, but also by the Trial Courts, in more than 700 cases.
PUCL quoted the Zombie Tracker Website, stating that as on March 10, around 745 cases were pending before the district courts, wherein the accused were charged under Section 66 A of the IT Act.
The petition sought direction to the Centre to collect all data on FIRs and cases registered under Section 66A pending before courts across the country. It further sought directions to all High Courts to ensure compliance with the verdict in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India.
The NGO sought directions to the Union government to publish in all leading newspapers – both English and vernacular languages – informing the general public that Section 66A has been struck down and is no longer a law.
PUCL had filed a similar plea in 2018. In February 15, 2019, the Supreme Court disposed of the matter by directing that copies of the Shreya Singhal judgment be made available by every High Court in this country to all district courts. The Centre was directed to make available copies of the judgement to Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories. The Chief Secretaries were, in turn, directed to sensitise the police departments and send copies of the verdict to the Director-General of Police of each state.