Over three years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Monday said it was shocked to hear that authorities still continued to book people under the now-extinct draconian provision. A Bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, who wrote the judgment in March 2015 upholding online free speech against Section 66A, said “strict action” would follow if the claims in the petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) were found true. The court ordered the Centre to respond to the petition in four weeks.
The PUCL said Section 66A, which restricted free expression online, continued to survive and occasionally found a place in the FIRs registered by the police in complete contravention of the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case. The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The entire provision was struck down by the court. The petition said the judgment rendered Section 66A extinct from the very date of its insertion into the IT Act, i.e. October 27, 2009. The petition said many officials may not even know about the Supreme Court verdict.