Clarify stand or we will suspend 66A: SC to Centre

Clarify stand or we will suspend 66A: SC to Centre

The Supreme Court on Tuesday set one-week deadline for the Centre to file its response clearing its stand on the contentious provisions of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

Issuing an ultimatum, the top court said that it would revoke sections 66A and 74 of the IT Act if the Centre failed to clarify its stand on a petition by December 9.

The court declined to entertain the plea of additional solicitor general Maninder Singh for two weeks time, saying that the notice in the matter was issued Nov 30, 2012 and since then it is pending.

"If the country can manage without IT Act for decades then it can manage without it for two weeks. We will suspend the act then take as long as you want. It is pending for two years," Justice Chelameswar.

The apex court's ultimatum comes in the backdrop of a string of cases being made against Internet users by invoking sections 66A and 74.

The controversial provisions of sections 66A and 74 was signed into law by the UPA-II government that chiefly legally facilitated the powerful to target Internet users when they felt offended.

Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000, permits for proceeding against people posting annoying and inconvenient comments on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and other electronic media.

Ever since these provisions of IT Act came into effect, several Internet users and artists were arrested, jailed and tried for posting or circulating "objectionable" contents online.

Two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan, were arrested in Mumbai for their Facebook posts, which was deemed by Shiv Sena as “objectionable” against its chief late Bal Thackeray. The girls were critical about the Mumbai bandh in the wake of the death of Bal Thackeray in their posts.

The incident prompted petitioner Shreya Singhal to move the Supreme Court, questioning the Constitutional validity of sections 66A and 74.

In the view of increasing cases of arrests of Internet users, the Centre last year made it mandatory for all the states and union territories to seek a prior permission of an Inspector General/DCP rank officer before arresting a person under these provisions.

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