The Supreme Court, New Delhi is likely to delivery a verdict on 24th March ’15 on the validity of Section 66 A of IT Act 2000. Section 66 A of IT Act 2000 has provision of punishing a person up to three years jail term and fine for posting offensive and menacing material online. It also gives empowers police to arrest such person. The controversial act pertaining to right for free speech over internet created verve as an aftereffect of arrest of two teen girls from Palgarh for posting negatively over a popular social media facebook. The comments were critical on Mumbai bandh following death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackery. Girls were released only after nationwide objections and it also followed a petition challenging the Section 66 A IT Act by NGOs including Bengali author Taslima Nasrin and a law student Shreya Singal.
Centre has evaluated both the sides saying the possibility of potential abuse of any law cannot prove it as unconstitutional. However it has also favored the Act saying that use of social media for political views, protests, contrary view or a dialogue cannot be punished under the Act 66 A.
Union Home Ministry has already directed all state governments that arrests under Secion 66 A can not be made without prior approval of senior police officers as local police may misuse it at the order of political powers.
Lets hope the SC Verdict today maintains the freedom of speech over social media while at the same time defining the section 66 A little more elaborate. The definition of Section 66 A of IT Act 2000 is not too specific about the material as it just defines it as grossly menacing, offensive and cause annoyance to public. The petition asked to nullify the Act as it interferes with freedom of speech and expression.
This act is also being opposed by Save Your Voice campaign and other social organizations in India. The verdict is most likely to create reactions from NGOs and folk of country with very large number of people sharing themselves online over numerous apps and social media.
The verdict today will be pronounced by Justic J Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman depending upon the arguments by petitioners and the central government.