Flashback 2015- India's year of free speech online
New Delhi, Dec 17: The year 2015 witnessed a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court in which a controversial law which was considered to be an infringement on free speech was scrapped.
The contentious Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act was declared ultra vires and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.
The bone of contention relating to Section 66 (A) was that the police had too much power to arrest persons for merely criticising someone online.
It was argued at length that Section 66 (A) was misused most by politicians who would unleash the law on those who would criticise them.
The right to free speech:
Section 66 (A) of the IT act was challenged by a law student Shreya Singhal after two young women were arrested in 2012 for posting comments that were critical of Mumbai being shut down for the funeral of Bal Thackeray. In her petition she contended that none should fear putting up something for the fear of going to jail.
It was further argued that the law was vague in nature and there are no guidelines. It alleged that the police could interpret the law the way they liked which had led to misuse. In fact it was the previous Congress led government that implemented this law stating that there was a dire need to combat defamatory content posted online.
The Supreme Court agreed with the contentions that were raised by the petitioners and said that the public has a right to know. With Section 66 (A) in place, the public's right to know is affected. The court struck down the section stating that it infringed upon right to speech as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The Union Government assured the court that it would come up with a new law. It was also stated that a new law with necessary amendments would come up and the same would be done after consultations. The government is however yet to come up with a new law to this effect.
The Information and Technology Ministry under whose purview this matter would fall says that the consultation process is still on.
One India News