SC’s landmark decision to Protect Online Freedom of Speech

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The Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment to protect online freedom of speech (on the Internet). While doing so, the apex court scrapped a controversial law (Section 66A of the IT Act) that many termed as a major infringement of freedom of speech.

Terming the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act unconstitutional and “vague in its entirety”, the court stated that it was encroaching upon “the public’s right to know”.

The law had been challenged in the court by a law student named Shreya Singhal following the arrests of two young women in 2012 who allegedly posted comments against the total shutdown in Mumbai due to popular Shiv sena leader the late Bal Thackrey.

Later, more parties, most notably the famous Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen and an NGO called Common Cause joined the group fighting the legal battle against Section 66A of the IT Act.

“Nobody should have fear of putting up something because of the fear of going to prison,” said Singhal, adding that hate speeches can be dealt with by using other laws designed to govern the Internet.

Section 66A of the IT Act reads: “Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”

Critics of the law complain that it was grossly misused by many political leaders to target their opponents and dissidence. For example, a profession was arrested by the police in 2012 just for posting a cartoon of West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

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