NEW DELHI: The home ministry on Wednesday wrote to all states and Union territories asking them to instruct police stations within their jurisdiction not to register fresh cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and also immediately withdraw cases that were booked after it was rendered defunct.

This comes days after the Supreme Court said it was shocking that people were still being booked and tried under the section scrapped by it six years ago.

Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 stated that any person who by electronic means sends 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.

The Supreme Court had in its judgment dated March 24, 2015 in the matter of Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India, struck down Section 66A, calling it “vague“ and “arbitrary”.

MHA on Wednesday said this made Section 66A null and void with effect from the date of the SC order and hence no action could be taken under this section.

Apart from requesting states and UTs to direct all police stations under their jurisdiction not to register cases under the repealed Section 66A, MHA asked the to sensitise the law enforcement agencies for compliance of the order issued by the Supreme Court on 24.03.2015.

The home ministry also requested that if any case had been booked under the repealed section, it should be immediately withdrawn.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a civil rights group, had last week informed the apex court that 745 cases being tried under Section 66A were still pending before various trial courts in 11 states of the country.

In an application filed before the top court, PUCL claimed prosecution under the scrapped law continued to be in use not only within police stations, but also in cases before trial courts across India.

In some cases, trial courts went ahead with framing charges under the defunct IT provision, even after taking cognisance of the court’s 2015 judgment, the SC was told.

SC, while expressing distress and shock at Section 66A still being in use six years after it declared it as “vague and arbitrary”, gave the government two weeks to file its reply, and PUCL was given a week to file its rejoinder.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/centre-asks-states-not-to-register-cases-under-section-66a-of-it-act/articleshow/84411534.cms