BENGALURU: The Supreme Court ruling to strike down Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act has been welcomed by the city’s netizens.
Sharanya Gopinathan, a recent graduate, was overjoyed at the decision. The youngster, who is now pursuing her masters in London, recalls the time her post on Facebook about Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reported for being offensive.
“It was just a sentence about how I felt about Mr Modi. Nothing obscene but it still got reported,” she says. She believes the Internet to be “the last guard of freedom”, where free speech has real meaning because there is no government and corporate control.
Forums propagating freedom on the World Wide Web too have applauded the verdict.
T Vishnu Vardhan, programme director of Access to Knowledge at the Centre for Internet and Society, says the draconian aspect of the IT Act has finally been removed.
The other laws coming under the IT Act’s ambit too need to be reviewed and changed, he said.
Lawyers told Express that many times, they have advised clients to take down posts that could be construed as offensive under Section 66A.
Lawrence Liang, a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, says, “Recently, we were approached by a woman saying she was being harassed by a mob after she tweeted about the beef ban in Maharashtra. We asked her to delete the tweet and lie low.”
“But now, I won’t advise people to take down their posts from the internet. It is a good ruling and gives people their freedom of speech and expression on the Internet,” Lawrence says.
Change on the Horizon
With bans raining down in the country, many believe the apex court’s decision will bring about change.
Yogita Dakshina, a freelance content writer who regularly posts about the hardships faced by the LGBT community, says she has always posted fearlessly but some of her family members were always scared that she would court trouble due to the provisions of Section 66A.
Prabahan Chakravorty, a PhD student, is of the view that this will be a big lift for those in the creative field. “The rights to freedom and expression need to be given to all citizens, especially writers and artists. Some people may consider a few posts offensive, but then, the world is offensive and people need to deal with that.”
On the responsibility that falls upon netizens with this verdict, Ankura Nayak, a student of Mount Carmel College, says, “People are responsible and they know what to post. There were a few people who posted irresponsible content even before this ruling. But these are few in number compared to responsible netizens.”