The Supreme Court today said all states and union territories must follow the Centre's advisory and refrain from arresting people for posting allegedly objectionable comments on social networking sites unless senior police officials have given their nod for it.
The court's directions on arrests under Section 66 A of the IT Act came during a hearing on a plea that challenged the arrest of a human rights activist from Andhra Pradesh who was apprehended last week for posting allegedly defamatory comments against a Congress leader on Facebook.
The petitioner in the case, law student Shreya Singhal, has also challenged the validity of Section 66A and had urged that no arrests should be made under the controversial Section till the Supreme Court decides on her PIL. The court today said all states should abide by the advisory till it decides on the validity of the provision.
Ms Singhal had filed her plea challenging Section 66A last year, after two girls were arrested in Thane for their Facebook comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's death.
Following her plea, the Centre issued an advisory stating that permission from an IGP-level police officer is must for making arrests under Section 66 A in metropolitan cities. In rural areas, it said, permission can be sought from an SSP.
Section 66 A states that any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character could be imprisoned for a maximum term of three years, besides imposition of appropriate fine.
Jaya Vindyala, a lawyer and president of the Andhra Pradesh unit of People's Union for Civil Liberties or PUCL, was arrested in Hyderabad on Sunday afternoon for her comments against A Krishnamohan, a Congress MLA from Chirala in Prakasam district. She was released on bail two days later.