New Delhi: The Supreme Court will on Tuesday pronounce verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which the petitioners described as vague and ambiguous and beyond the ambit of article 19 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
The bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman will pronounce the verdict which was reserved on February 26, upon the conclusion of the arguments by the petitioners and the central government.
Justice Nariman would pronounce the verdict for the bench.
The challenge to the validity of Section 66A was raised by Shreya Singhal, following the arrest of two girls—Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan—for posting comments critical of the Mumbai bandh in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
The hearing saw NGOs Common Cause, People Union for Civil Liberty and individuals including self-exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen joining the challenge which saw a repeat hearing after an earlier hearing by a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S.A. Bobde remained inconclusive.
Broadly, the contention by most of the petitioners was that Section 66A was vague which gave ample scope for an arbitrary interpretation and misuse of the provision by police.
Section 66A reads: “Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”
However, the central government defended Section 66A, taking the stand that the provisions in no way intended to curb the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under article 19 the Constitution, but at the same time the government could not let the enormous cyber world be left unregulated.