The Supreme Court Thursday said no person would be arrested under Section 66A of the IT Act for posting objectionable comments on social networking websites without prior approval from an officer not below the rank of inspector general of police.
A vacation bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Dipak Misra passed the order after hearing a plea by Shreya Singhal, who had petitioned the court against the arrest of an activist Jaya Vindhyalaya (since been released) under provisions of the IT Act on a complaint filed by an Andhra Pradesh lawmaker
However, the court said that it “can’t grant such blanket orders” as senior counsel Soli Sorabjee told it that police was arresting people on mere charges of posting comments on social media websites that caused inconvenience or annoyance.
The court’s refusal to grant blanket order was on the prayer by which the petitioner had sought to restrain police from initiating “any coercive steps on the basis of Section 66A of the IT Act” till court pronounces its verdict on the matter pending before it.
Justice Misra said that the said provision of IT Act has not been stayed by court.
The court’s order restraining the police from arresting a person for committing offence under Section 66 A of the I.T. Act came after Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra informed the court that the central government Jan 9 this year had issued an advisory to the states on the procedure to be followed before police acted on complaints filed under this provision.
Initially, the court asked Luthra as to why central government was not ensuring the compliance of its advisory when it asked, “Why don’t you ensure the compliance (of your advisory).”
“We (centre) can’t do it. The law and order is a state subject,” he replied.
At this, the court directed the states to ensure the compliance of the advisory issued by the central government and also directed that the copies of its order be sent to all the state governments.
Vindhyalaya, a People’s Union for Civil Liberties activist had allegedly posted derogatory comments on her Facebook timeline on Chirala legislator Amanchi Krisna Mohan and Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah.
Police had invoked the provisions of Section 66A of the IT Act and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code against her.
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act deals with punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, which cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will.