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Section 66A of IT Act

Context:

Recently, the Supreme C0urt directed that no person should be prosecuted under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which has been struck down.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About Section 66A of IT Act
  3. Objections to Section 66A
  4. What is the IT Act?
  5. Amendment to the IT Act

Details

  • The SC ruled that no complaints should be filed regarding alleged violations of Section 66A.
  • The reference to and reliance on Section 66A will stand erased in all instances where citizens are being prosecuted for violations of that section, it was stated.
  • In the Shreya Singhal case, Section 66A was ruled unconstitutional by the court in 2015.

About Section 66A of IT Act

  • Introduced in 2008 by the amendments to the IT Act, 2000
  • It provided the government with power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
  • It prescribed that a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
  • Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India: In 2015, the SC struck down the law calling it open-ended and unconstitutionally vague, and thus expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet.

Objections to Section 66A

  • The terms “offensive,” “menacing,” “annoyance,” etc., according to experts, are vague, ill defined, or not defined at all.
  • Anyone could interpret anything as offensive.
  • There was a lot of room for abuse of power when using this clause to threaten media professionals.
  • Additionally, this limited the freedom of speech and expression that the Constitution recognises as a fundamental right.
  • Most notably, the area was utilised to arrest anybody who made any unkind remarks or criticisms about politicians.

What is the IT Act?

  • The year 2000 saw the rise of IT Bill which it received assent of President and hence came to be the Information Technology (IT) act in which Cyber laws are contained.
  • The Aim of the Act was to provide legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 also aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means. The Act states that unless otherwise agreed, an acceptance of contract may be expressed by electronic means of communication and the same shall have legal validity and enforceability.
  • In India, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
  • It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
  • The role of the intermediaries has been spelt out in separate rules framed for the purpose in 2011- The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

Amendment to the IT Act

  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 – An act to amend the IT Act 2000 received the assent of the President on 5th February 2009.
It dealt with various changes such as:
  • Data Protection –with no specific reference to Data Protection in 2000 Act, the ITA 2008 introduced two sections addressing Data Protection, Section 43A (Compensation for failure to protect data), and Section 72A (Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract.
  • Information Preservation – Section 67C refers to the Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries. According to Central Government, any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall not be liable to fine.
  • Section 66 A: It provided the government with power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts.
  • Section 69 gives power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer source.
    • Section 69B authorizes to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for Cyber security.

-Source: Indian Express


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