Freedom of Expression & Shreya Singhal Case

Shreya Singhal Case & Right to Freedom of Expression

Hey friends, my today’s topic is Shreya Singhal Case & Right to Freedom of Expression. This topic is very important. This is a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court. Let us understand it with some important points.

Supreme Court ‘Shocked’ over scrapped Section 66A law’s use in FIRs, issues notice to center.

while Section 66A of the IT Act was scrapped by the Supreme Court several years ago, it still remains in use. The Court issued a notice to the Court saying it’s shocking.

Five years since ‘Shreya Singhal'(Shreya Singhal Case) UP Police continues to file cases Under Section 66A of the IT Act. The Allahabad High Court Bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Samit Gopal quashed an FIR that had been registered last year under this Section.

Let us introduce with an amendment in 2009, the Section punishes offence or annoyance caused through electric communication media.

Section 66A in the Information Technology Act 2000

72 [ 66A Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc. -Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-

(a)any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

(b)any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device; or

(c)any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages

shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine.

Explanation. -For the purpose of this section, the terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource, or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message. ]

It is a legal language but let us understand it in very simple language. If you send any message to someone through electronic media like What’s app, Facebook, Instagram, and this message create an annoyance in the human mind or any type of nuisance in the society. The person who sends this messenger will be booked or punished under section 66A of the IT Act

No Clear Definitions of these words under this section and this is a very big challenge to decide, “Whether this Message/Act comes under this Section or not?” Therefore it was misused in various Police stations.

  1. Grossly Offensive
  2. Annoyance
  3. Inconvenience
  4. Danger
  5. Obstruction
  6. Insult
  7. Injury
  8. Criminal Intimidation

Facts of the Shreya Singhal Case

  • 2 girls in 2012 were arrested on a Facebook post regarding the displeasure of Bandh in Mumbai post-Bal Thackery’s death.

  • In the year 2013, the Union Government recommended that the arrest of a person made under Section 66A of the IT Act shall not be without prior authorization of the superior officer, who is not below the rank of inspector general of Police. The government was using this act for government benefits and was taking a disadvantage because no word like annoyance, inconvenience, grossly offensive, etc.. definition was defined under this act.

  • In response, numerous petitions were filed by the people across the country to strike down the unconstitutional provisions of the IT Act.

  • The Apex Court of India clubbed those petitions into a single PIL and the case came to be known as Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

Writ Filed for following urges

  • Declare Section 66A, 69A, and 79 of the IT Act ultra-vires to the Constitution of India, as they have ambiguous interpretations.

  • Against Fundamental Right to Article 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Arguments of the Respondents

  • The obligation of the legislature is to address the needs of the people

  • The Court of law can interpret the law in a manner that makes it justly enforceable.

  • The abuse of legislation by the executive authorities cannot be a sole reason to pronounce the law ultra-vires t the Constitution of India.

  • Broad terminologies are used in the law to protect the rights of citizens from those who infringe them by the means of this medium.

Court Held

  • Various judgments of this Court have referred to the importance of freedom of speech and expression both from the point of view of the liberty of the individual and from the point of view of our democratic form of government.

  • For example, in the early case of Ramesh Thappar V. State of Madras (1950), this court stated that freedom of speech lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations.

  • In Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. Ors. V. Union of India, (1962) a Constitution Bench of this Court said freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic constitution which envisages changes in the composition of legislatures and governments and must be presented.

  • In a separate concurring judgment Beg. J. Said, in Bennett Coleman & Co. & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors, (1973), that the freedom of speech and of the press is the Art of the Convent of Democracy because public criticism is essential to the working of its institutions.

  • Whitney V. California, 71 Liberty should be treated as a means as well as an end and to justify suppression of free speech there should be a reasonable explanation to fear that serious evil will result if such free speech is practiced.

Hence after Shreya Singhal Case Judge

  • Section 2(v) of the IT Act, defines information, it does not refer to what information can be it only talks about the dissemination of information

  • The SC declared Section 66A of the IT Act as unconstitutional and struck it down on the grounds of curtailment of Free speech

  • The Court said such a law which was often misused by police in various states to arrest innocent persons for posting critical comments about social and political issues and leaders on social networking sites, hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, the two cardinal pillars of democracy.

But Court also said  in Freedom of Expression

  • Section 69A and Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 was held intra-vires to the Constitution of India.

  • Section 79 was affirmed to be a legitimate subject t the reading down of Section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act.


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