NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday did not agree with the Centre’s statement that the arrests of some persons for allegedly posting objectionable comments on social media websites were stray incidents, saying that even if they were aberrations, they were brazen and grave.
The Centre had submitted that though it was not justifying the arrests made under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, they were aberrations and stray incidents of misuse of statutory powers by the authorities concerned.
“Even if they were aberrations and some stray incidents, the violations of rights were very brazen and grave,” the Bench, which is hearing various petitions seeking relief, including setting aside of some IT Act provisions, said.
Section 66A of the IT Act has courted controversy as it provides the power to arrest a person, besides a jail term of maximum three years, for allegedly sending “offensive messages through communication service”.
Senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for one of the petitioners, said, “The right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution must be preserved and it is not open to the state to curtail this right. It can be subjected to reasonable restriction as provided under Article 19(2) alone.”
“The provisions, which have been vague, have been struck down in the past. Any public statement may annoy somebody,” he said, seeking that the Section be set aside.
The Bench also wanted to know as to whether the penal provision in the IT Act had come into being because the IPC was inadequate to deal with the new kind of offences.
Bhushan, appearing for NGO ‘Common Cause’, also sought the setting aside of three IT Act provisions including Section 66A, saying, “These are unreasonable provisions and will kill democracy.” The hearing will continue on Wednesday. Earlier, the court had said that a person, accused of posting objectionable comments on social networking sites, cannot be arrested by the police without getting permission from senior officers.