Cases cannot be registered under the defunct Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, the Centre told states and Union Territories today. The police should be asked to stop filing such cases and any case under the scrapped law should be immediately withdrawn, the home ministry said in an order this evening.
Section 66A-- a controversial law that allowed the police to arrest people for posting "offensive" content online -- was scrapped by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment of March 2015.
In a recent hearing, the court expressed shock when it heard that more than 1,000 cases had been filed under it.
"It is shocking. We will issue notice," a three-member bench of Justices R Nariman, KM Joseph and BR Gavai said. "Amazing. What is going on is terrible," Justice Nariman had added. The judges had also said strict action will be taken against officials who used the law.
The top court had struck down the contentious law in 2015 in a bid to maintain the constitutional right to freedom of speech online. Describing the law as "vague in its entirety," the judges had said it encroaches upon "the public's right to know."
The law, however, was defended from both sides of the political divide, with parties saying it would help curb the spread of malicious content online.
The use of the law by the police in various states had continued.
The non-profit petitioner People Union for Civil Liberties or PUCL, which had flagged the case in top court again, said after the law was scrapped, 381 cases were filed under it in Maharashtra, 291 in Jharkhand, 245 in Uttar Pradesh and 192 in Rajasthan.
Other states to register Sec 66A cases after it was struck down are Andhra Pradesh (38), Assam (59), Delhi, (28), Karnataka (14), Telangana (15), Tamil Nadu (7) and Bengal (37).