Meet Shreya Singhal, the 'saviour' of freedom of speech

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New Delhi, March 25: The deepest concern over freedom of speech and expression and the threat posed to it by Section 66A of the IT Act, was the prime reason for Shreya Singhal to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court in November 2012.

After a gap of three years, the verdict of Supreme Court came on Tuesday, March 24 scrapping the 'draconian' law.

shreya-singhal-it-act

It is a cheerful moment for the 24-year old because she became a saviour of free speech by challenging the provision in the cyber law which provided power to arrest a person for posting allegedly "offensive" content on websites.

[Internet freedom at last: Section 66 A of IT act struck down]

However, the section 66A was also used by political parties to arrest people for posting online content against their leaders.

Shreya had been noticing several high-profile arrests of people, which came under the section. The arrests of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in Mumbai and a Puducherry buinessman also sparked thoughts in the minds of Shreya.

[Section 66A of IT Act: Explained]

The arrest of two college girls in Palghar over a Facebook post questioning the bandh in city on the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, irked Singhal.

She was really shocked and the incident also became a turning point in her battle against online freedom.

"I got really angry. The law was blatantly being misused. The provision was extremely vague in its definition of what should go on the Internet," she said.

A petition was filed by Singhal in the apex court with the support of lawyers Ninad Laud and Ranjita Rohtagi. Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, who argued her petition also appeared for her, free of cost.

[Life after Section 66A of the Information Technology Act]

"I don't want people to be scared to say something on the internet if they're not scared to say something in person. The internet as a medium connects you so instantly, and you can't curtail that right. It's so fundamental," she said.

Singhal, a law student in Delhi University, is the daughter of Supreme Court lawyer Manali Singhal and grand daughter of Delhi High Court Judge Sunanda Bhandare.

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