Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act

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Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act
New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media.

Petitioners - a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs - had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012.

The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A - grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public - is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed.

When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers.

The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it.

During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, "How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?"

The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers.

After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment.

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