Case Analysis

Shreya Singhal v. Union Of  India [A.I.R 2015]

By Shubhi Shukla

Introduction

Being born in a democratic country we have freedom of right and expression under Article 19 (1)(a) however there exist some exceptions to it but overall if we think about it and imagine a scenario where no one among us can speak and express what we feel, will that be fine? Will that be democratic? If that happens we will only act as a puppet under some authority, we will have to agree with whatever it says no matter what we think of it. Earlier it was newspapers or magazines through which we were able to express our thoughts and opinions, which again was available to a limited number of people but, now in the 21st century, almost everyone among us has a mobile phone as a medium to express our opinions and to raise our voices. In this age of technology, we all try to put forward our ideas although we are to abide by certain rules and regulations but still have a very big advantage, because what if this opportunity of ours gets stuck with some unreasonable conditions and boundaries that were the reason Supreme Court scrapped the 66 A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

What was 66 A of the IT Act 2000?

This amendment was bought to the IT Act 2000 by the UPA government in 2008. As per the amendment now the government was given the power to make an arrest and imprisonment of a person if he or she has made a menacing and offensive post online this amendment was bought without holding any discussions in the parliament. punishment is given whenever a message is sent via devices like mobile phone tablet a computer or any other communication device Also a three years conviction in jail is to be given.

Facts of the Case

  •  In the year 2012 after Bal Thackery’s death (the founder of Shiv Sena ) imposed a bandh in Maharashtra
  • As a result of the ban 2 girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan expressed their opinions on their Facebook accounts via post
  • This post through which they put their points forward bought both the girls on the radar of Mumbai police after which Mumbai police apprehended both the girls for posting the remark on Facebook 
  • Later on the girls were released but people across the country criticized the police for their action
  • After this many activists voiced that the police misused its power and invoked section 66 A of the IT Act under which punishment was given for sending the menacing and offensive post. the fundamental right of free speech and expression was curtailed with this act
  • The offense comes under the category of cognizable offense and gives power to police officers to investigate a case without a warrant
  • As a result of Section 66 A, a lot number of unreasonable arrests were made by the police and police backed such arrests with the reason that the convicted persons made some posts that were of obnoxious content however these posts merely showed reluctance  towards the government and were an expression of the individual’s opinion 
  • Later on in the year 2013, the central government issued an advisory saying that no person is to be apprehended by the police when it lacks the prior authorization of the superior officer and this superior officer should not be below the rank of Inspector General of police
  • After this, a lot number of petitions were filed by the citizens to scrap these provisions of the IT act Supreme Court merged all such petitions in the form of a single PIL and named it Shreya Singhal v.  Union Of India.

Arguments of the Petitioner 

  • Section 66 A of the IT act disposes of the fundamental right of free speech and expression which is provided by article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian constitution also there are certain exceptions to free speech and expression but section 66 A of the IT act doesn’t fall under the category of these exceptions
  • Petitioners claimed that expression of unsatisfaction displeasure and exasperation doesn’t fall under the cover of Article 19(2)
  • Because section 66A lacks the terms and conditions  it was therefore declared to be vague and ambiguous now because the terms can be interpreted by different authorities differently it is prone to be misused by the executive authority 
  • The section was also termed as discriminatory because there existed no intelligible differentia while charging only netizens under the given section.

Arguments of the Respondent 

  • The law is prone to be misused by the executive authority does not stand to be rational to say that the law is an ultra virus to the constitution
  • The court of law can interpret the law in a manner which makes it justly enforceable and while doing so the entrances of the provisions can also be read down by it.

Issues Raised

 I. Whether this section counter the fundamental right of free speech and expression?

II. Is this section constitutionally valid?

Judgment 

  • The court said that every expression should be indistinct meaning if someone finds a thing offensive the other may not find it very offensive or at all offensive.
  • It also said that section 66 must be scrapped as it is contradictory to Article 19 (1)(a) and does not come under the ambit of 19(2).
  • It held that section 69A of the IT Act is constitutionally valid. 

Information Technology Act, 2000

The Act presents a prison framework for digital governance via way of means of giving reputation to digital information and virtual signatures. It additionally defines cybercrimes and prescribes consequences for them. The Act directed the formation of a Controller of Certifying Authorities to adjust the issuance of virtual signatures. It additionally installed a Cyber Appellate Tribunal to remedy disputes growing from this new law. The Act additionally amended numerous sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Banker’s Book Evidence Act, 1891, and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 to cause them to compliant with new technologies

Similar Cases

 In Romesh Tapper v.  State of  Madras

  • The petitioner in the case worked as a publisher printer and editor of an English journal known as crossroads which used to be published and printed in Mumbai
  • Madras Government under section 91A of the Madras Maintenance of public order act of 1949 imposed a ban on circulation and entry of the set journal in the state of Madras.
  • As a result of the ban, the petitioner approached the Supreme Court via a right petition and claimed that the power possessed by the Madras government under the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act of 1949 where a form of excessive restriction on freedom of free speech and expression provided under article 19 of the Indian constitution.
  • The madras government countered the argument by saying that the ban was imposed to maintain public order and public safety which is equal to the security of the state. and security of the state is a reasonable restriction of freedom of free speech and expression under Article 19 (2).
  • Apex court of India agreed with the petition that was asserting that the powers granted under the madras maintenance of Public Order Act 1949 enabled the state to unconstitutionally restrict free speech and expression.
  • The court said that the security of the state is counted as a reasonable restriction under 19(2) of the constitution and the words public order and public safety that are used in the act should be read together the security of his state reflects a situation of extreme violence in the state that would endanger the state.
  • And if an act goes beyond the constitutional limits all such acts must be declared void hence this act gave some unconstitutional powers to the state.
  • Hence Supreme Court struck down the ban imposed on the entry and circulation of the journal in the state of Madras.

Khushboo v. Kanniamal & Anr (2010) 5 SCC 600

  • In the year 2010 IndiaToday had surveyed the sexual conduct of the human beings dwelling in Indian towns growing occurrence of premarital intercourse changed into trouble in that survey Khushboo who changed into the accused withinside the given case changed into one in all folks that spoke to the mag on the difficulty she cited that the growing incidences of premarital intercourse withinside the context of residing relationships and certified her comments with the aid of using watching that ladies have to take precautions to save you undesirable pregnancies and the transmission of venerable diseases. 
  • She changed into hated with the aid of using the Tamil network after the comments made the aid using her. The PMK ( Pattali Makkal Kantchi ) activist dragged her to the courtroom docket she changed into charges below segment 509 of IPC and segment 292(1) of Indian Penal Code 1860.
  • Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes a phrase gesture or act supposed to insult the modesty of a girl and a good way to set up this offense it’s far essential to expose that the modesty of a selected girl or a without problems identifiable organization of ladies has been insulted with the aid of using a spoken phrase gesture or bodily act
  • Section 292 (1) of the Indian Penal Code states that the e-book of a book, pamphlet, writing, drawings portraying illustrations determine, and so on could be deemed obscene
  • The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan and justice is Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan on April 28 quashed all 22 crook lawsuits pending in opposition to the Tamil movie actor Khushbu in numerous charges in Tamil Nadu and one in Indore Madhya Pradesh in connection together along with her premarital intercourse
  • The courtroom docket held that residing collectively isn’t always unlawful withinside the eyes of regulation even though it’s far taken into consideration as immoral withinside the eyes of conservative Indian society 
  • The courtroom docket additionally stated that residing collectively is proper to existence and consequently now no longer unlawful.

Meneka Gandhi v. Union of India

  • Menka Gandhi who turned into the petitioner inside the case turned into requested to give up her passport to the nearby passport office.
  • On being requested approximately the motives for the confiscation of her passport the passport government refused to reveal the motives for confiscation of the passport and denied the petitioner any possibility of being heard.
  • Phase 10 ( 3 ) ( c ) of the passport act allowed the worried authority to impound the passport of someone if it deems vital to achieving this withinside the hobby of the serenity and integrity of India the safety of India pleasant members of the family of India with any overseas u. s . or withinside the hobby of the widespread public.
  • Menaka Gandhi filed a case in opposition to the Government of India over impounding her passport.
  • Earlier than this Supreme Court be the successful view that there has been no assurance in confiscation in opposition to arbitrary law encroaching upon private liberty below article 21.
  • Selection of presidency turned into a challenge below violation of articles 14, 19, and 21.

The Fundamental Right of Free Speech and Expression

The first and foremost fundamental freedom is freedom of speech and expression which is provided to us by the Indian constitution however this freedom is not absolute but comes with certain exceptions attached to it under article 19 (2) the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India dealt with the freedom of free speech and expression during this digital era the restrictions which are attached to the rights can be traced from article 19 (2) to article 19 (6) of the constitution and these are

Security of State

If someone’s act or actions endanger the security of the state the Indian constitution gives the authority to impose a restriction and curbed the fundamental rights of the individual

Sovereignty and Integrity

This restriction was introduced in the Indian constitution by the 16th amendment this restriction curbs the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and doesn’t allow anybody to threaten the serenity of India it prevents all the threats to the integrity of India

Friendly Relations with a Foreign State

If an individual’s freedom of increased speech and expression affects the friendly relations with the other states then in such scenarios all such expressions and free speeches are to be restricted it was introduced in the Indian constitution by the amendment bought to it in the year 1951 no constitution in the world consists of this provision India is the only country to do so

Public Order

It refers to public peace safety and tranquility to maintain public order if such restriction is needed it is considered to be valid but in cases such as that of a local bridge no such restriction shall be applicable

Decency and Morality

Under this, the Government of India is empowered to restrict freedom of speech and expression when it harms decency and morality in the country both the terms are defined under section 292 two section 294 of the Indian Penal Code

Contempt of Court

It refers to willful disobedience to any judgment either in words or in form of writing science et cetera there are two types of contempt civil contempt and criminal contempt the freedom of speech and expression doesn’t give them permission to contempt of court

Defamation

Defamation refers to harming someone’s reputation in the eyes of others by making some defamatory statement about him once a reputation plays a significant role in society hence such as free speech and expression which affects one’s reputation there should be a restriction to it

Incitement To An Offence

The constitution tries to prevent people from the Commission of the offense and anybody using his free speech and expression of incites an offense shall be punishable and hence such freedom shall be restricted

Conclusion

When idea was introduced in India on October 17 2000 Internet was very new for everyone but with passage of time it has become a means of communication and commerce transactions it’s uses the unlimited but every coin has a two sides along with the advantages it is prone to the crime and offences as well hello give us tried solving all these problems which might arise in few they gave much importance to the democratic principles of the country and hence provided us with freedom of free speech and expression section 66 of the IT Act was quite disturbing too all the democratic values of our nation what if it was still enacted and we all would have to keep ourselves from posting anything online to put for whatever opinions and views this section was capable of being misapplied and misunderstand in its landmark judgement of shreya singhal v. union of India Supreme Court rightly scrapped the law and protected ones right to free speech and expression however it is really disturbing to see that several government agencies still apply this section even when it has already struck down there should be a check upon such acts of the government so that no one is deprived of this their freedom.

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