Shreya Singhal V/s. Union Of India
Author: Dishi Shivpuriya Student, JLU School of Law, Bhopal
Citation: – AIR 2015 SC 1523 Date of Judgement: – 24 March, 2015
Facts of the Case: –
In 2012, two women named Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan were arrested by Mumbai Police for posting allegedly offensive and objectionable comment on Facebook about the Bandh called in wake of a political leader Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackery’s death. The Police made that arrest on grounds of Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000. Later on, both the women were released and the case was also dismissed but the case attracted the attention of media and criticism. It was felt that police might have misused its power by exercising the same to arresting the women. Also, it was contended that the Section 66 of Information Technology Act, 2000 was violative of Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. As a result of which, Shreya Singhal filed a Public Interest Litigation in the year 2013 challenging the constitutional validity of Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000.
Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000
The Section provides with the Punishment for sending offensive message through communication services, etc
Any person who sends by means of a computer resources or a communication device: –
Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character, or
Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intention, enmity, hatred or ill will. Persistently by making use of such computer resources or a communication device, or
Any Electric 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 message.
Shall be punishable with the imprisonment of a term which may be extended to 3 years and with fine.
Explanation. -For the purpose of this section, 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.
Article 19 (1)(a) of Constitution of India
Freedom of Speech and Expression to all the citizen of India. It gives freedom to every citizen of India to express their opinion by way of words of mouth, in writing, in printing in pictures, or any other mode. It includes person’s right to propagate or publish the views of other people. Article 19 (2) of Constitution of India imposes restriction on the above mentioned Right if,
The given statement affects the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India,
It affects the security of state,
It affects the friendly relations with foreign states,
It effects public order decency or morality,
It is in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Issues of the Case: –
Whether Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000 is curtailing the Right to Speech and Expression?
Whether Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000 is saved under Article 19(2) of Indian Constitution?
Judgement of the Case: –
The Supreme Court agreed on the arguments of the petition and struck down Section 66 A of Information Technology, 2000 as it was entirely violative of Article 19 (1) (a) of Constitution of India. It applied the Doctrine of Severability according to which only this section was declared as unconstitutional, and the rest of the act was held constitutional.
It was held that the section is unconstitutional also on the ground that it takes within its sweep protected speech & speech that is innocent in nature and is liable therefore to be used in such a way as to have a chilling effect on free speech and would therefore, have to be struck down on the ground of over breadth.
It was held that Section 66 A of Information Technology Act, 2000 was not saved under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Also, Section 69(a) and Information Technology (Procedure & Safeguard for blocking for access of information by public rules are constitutionally valid. Section 79 is valid subject to reading the section 79 (3)(b) of Information Technology Act, 2000.
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