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Indian Supreme Court strikes down Section 66 of IT Act that impeded freedom of expression on social media

Law was being misused to arrest innocent citizens.AB Wire

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India has deemed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional and removed it from the legislation.

The particular section has been widely misused by law enforcement officials across the nation to arrest people for posting critical comments about political issues and leaders on social media.

The court said “such a law hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, two cardinal pillars of democracy,” according to The Times of India.

The first petitioner to object to Section 66A was law student Shreya Singhal, who was subsequently joined by petitions from NGOs and civil rights groups who were also argued the provision violated citizens’ inherent right to freedom of speech and expression.

The Times reported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration was opposed to striking down Section 66A, claiming it was meant to deter citizens from uploading “grossly offensive material which can lead to lawlessness by inciting public anger and violence.”

The government had argued to the Supreme Court that the impact of the internet is much more widespread and thus restrictions on the medium should be more drastic in comparison to print and television.

It said, unlike print and electronic media, the internet “did not operate in an institutional form” and there was need for some sort of mechanism to institute checks and balances.

While the court did not heed the Centre’s objections regarding 66A, it did uphold section 69B of the act and the 2011 guidelines that allow the government to block websites if their content has “the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder, or affect India’s relationship with other countries.”

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