Needed law against posting of objectionable material online: Government

New Delhi, Dec 9: The central government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that some provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000, whose constitutional validity is under challenge, were incorporate to act against those posting objectionable material on social media and websites.

To back its plea, the government placed, before a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S.A.Bobde, some objectionable material that had prompted the incorporation of sections 66A, 69 and 80 of the act, to proceed against those posting such objectionable material.

Submitting the material in a sealed cover, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: "These are the objectionable materials which compelled us to make the provisions."

The challenge to the validity of the IT Act provisions was raised by Shreya Singhal who had moved the apex court following the arrest of two girls - Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan - for posting comments critical on Mumbai bandh in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray.

Thereafter NGOs Common Cause and PUCL also impleaded themselves in the matter.

In the course of the hearing, Justice Chelameswar said: "We want to examine whether the IPC (Indian Penal Code) was found inadequate to deals with defamation and objectionable materials. Or is it some special kind of legislation to deal with a special kind of situation. It requires a detailed examination."

Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, appearing for Singhal, told the court that section 66A is unconstitutional as it violates the constitution's article 19(1)(a) guaranteeing fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.

He also argued that section 66A also suffers from vagueness because expressions used in it would give different meaning based on the understanding of the person invoking the provisions in his complaint.

Appearing for the NGO, counsel Prashant Bhushan also said that expression used in section 66A were vague and are grossly abused by those in power and cited instances to back up his plea.

Hearing will continue Wednesday.

In her plea, Singhal had challenged the constitutional validity of section 66A that provides for proceeding against people posting annoying and inconvenient comments on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and other electronic media.

She said that the "phraseology of the aforesaid section is so wide and vague and incapable of being judged on objective standards, that it is susceptible to wanton abuse".

The section 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."

Notice on Singhal's plea was issued to the central as well as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Puducherry and Delhi governments Nov 30, 2012.

The validity of section 66A has also been challenged by the self-exiled Bangla writer Taslima Nasrin.


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