On Wednesday, The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directed State governments and police chiefs to withdraw pending cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. Further cases should not be registered under the act as well.
The order comes just days after the Supreme Court expressed shock that Section 66A was still in operation to prosecute people, six years after it was held unconstitutional by the SC.
Section 66A of the IT Act was struck down in Supreme Court judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, March 24, 2015. The grounds on which it was struck down was that it was “vague” and “arbitrary”, as per the SC. On Wednesday, the MHA stated that this judgement made the act null and void, and hence no action could be taken under it.
Recently, the apex court was hearing a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a civil rights organisation, which informed the court that currently 745 cases tired under this section were still pending in trial courts in 11 states currently. They added that in some cases, trial courts went ahead with framing cases under the section, even after acknowledging the SC judgement.
The Act stated that any person who by electronic means sends any information that is offensive, has menacing character, or any information which the source knows to be false, shared 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.