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Supreme Court slams Centre for not preventing arrests under 66A

January 8, 2019

The Supreme Court has criticized the Centre for not taking steps to prevent arrests made under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The Act was struck down by the court in 2015.

The Supreme Court scrapped Section 66A of the IT Act that laid down a three-year jail term for online content that could be seen as offensive or false. The court said this was against the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

However, a petition before the court said that people are still being punished under the dead law and gave instances of cases where they were facing prosecution.

To this the court told the Centre,

If what they allege is correct, then you people will face severe strictures. We will send everyone to jail who ordered the arrests. We are going to take very strict action. - Supreme Court

The bench, led by Justice R F Nariman, has asked the Centre to respond in four weeks' time.

In 2015, the court struck down Section 66A after many people were arrested for posting so-called "objectionable" content on the internet.

The court had said, Section 66A "arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech".

The first petition against Section 66A was filed by law student Shreya Singhal, who sought an amendment in it after two girls were arrested in Maharashtra. One of them had commented on Facebook against a shutdown in Mumbai after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

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