MHA asks states to stop registering cases under unconstitutional Sec 66A, IT Act; asks them withdraw pending cases

THE Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) has written to the Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs to stop registering FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 Act which was declared unconstitutional in 2015.

In a letter sent to all the states, MHA has also asked them to immediately withdraw all cases lodged under Section 66A.

It has also asked the States to sensitize law enforcement agencies for the compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court in 2015.

MHA’s letter came after the SC recently expressed shock at the continuing registration of FIRs under Sec 66A of the IT Act.

On July 5, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman who was heading a three-judge bench said it was terrible and shocking that despite striking down Section 66A of the IT Act, FIRs continue to be registered under Section 66A of the IT Act.

The PUCL, in its plea, sought a direction to the Centre to advise all police stations against registering FIRs under Section 66A.  Besides, the NGO has also sought publicity in all leading newspapers informing the general public that Section 66A has been struck down and is no longer the law.

The top court on March 24, 2015, had struck down Section 66A of the IT Act as being violative of the freedom of speech and expression. It held that Section 66A created an offence that was vague and overbroad.

Section 66A of the IT Act provided-

66-A. 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 fine.

Explanation.- For the purposes 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.”