We refer to the various articles published in this forum (Refer here) on the judgement in the Shreya Singhal Case in which the honourable Supreme Court bench of Justices, F.Nariman and J. Chelmeshwar on 24th March 2015 held that Section 66A of ITA 2008 was not meeting the requirements of constitution and it is so badly drafted that it cannot be “read down”.
The essence of our argument was that the decision was based on a wrong premise that Section 66A was adversely affecting “Free Speech” and was probably guided by a preconceived notion that the arrests made by the Police under Section 66A were all done under the correct interpretation of Section 66A.
On the other hand the facts were different. All the arrests which made the petitioner take up the case to the Court and brought apparently eminent advocates into an argument that the section is unconstitutional were based on “Publishing of content” and not on “Sending of Messages” and hence the entire case was conducted under an erroneous presumption.
As a result the errors of judgement of the police in the field was carried through upto the Supreme Court and resulted in the quashing of the section.
The Government was incapable of putting up the right argument and let the petition carry through.
The irony was that all those who were supporting Section 66A suddenly turned out as champions of free speech and hailed the decision of the Supreme Court as “Land Mark Judgement”.
Journalists were equally ignorant and in pursuance of a populist opinion praised the decision sky high.
In this entire cacophony, Naavi.org had the conviction to stick its neck out and call the decision a “Mistake” and tried to persuade the Government to apply for a curative petition.
Unfortunately the Government did not share the conviction nor was concerned enough to apply for a revision.
In this background, it is now amusing but satisfying to observe that another bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant seems to have felt the need for reintroduction of Section 66A and a need to regulate Social Media.
The court’s observation was reportedly made when senior advocate L Nageswara Rao informed the bench that a message was recently circulated on WhatsApp that he was involved in a case of Section 376 of IPC (rape).
Senior advocate K Parasaran, who was assisting the court as amicus curiae, also appears to have cited a recent incident in which wrong information regarding him was widely circulated on the social media.
We are pleased that between March 24 to August 6, the euphoria created by quashing of Section 66A has evaporated and better sense appears to have been restored.
Let’s us hope that at least now the Government of India will draft the revised section to replace Section 66A properly so that uninformed enthusiasts like Shreya Singhal donot rush to Supreme Court and be instruments of creating bad law.