Supreme Court receives another lesson from Police on Sec 66A

Police in the field seems to be the most effective teachers for the Supreme Court. When Police in Maharashtra and Pondicherry booked cases under Section 66A (of ITA 2000/8) for publishing content on FaceBook and Twitter, Supreme Court judges learnt that Section 66A was meant for banning “Any Information” and hence an infringement of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court judges did not learn from other experts in the field who were telling them that Section 66A is not meant for regulating content on Face Book and Twitter but only to regulate messages sent from one person to another privately through E Mail or SMS causing harassment or fear to the receiver or attempting to commit a fraud. For them listening to experts or exercising their own intelligence was not required when Police had decided that Section 66A was applicable to such cases. Police were therefore considered the best teachers who know law better than any body else and if they book a case under a specific section, then it must be correct. If the Supreme Court which is powerful in law feels that arrests made were not good, then it was necessary to remove the law under which the case was booked rather than finding out if the Police had correctly applied law.

This is the jurisprudence that has come out of the Shreya Singhal judgement by a bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justices Nariman and Chelmeshwar.

Now we understand  that Chennai Police have filed a case under the scrapped Section 66A against an employee of Jaya TV who released a video clipping shot by the channel showing the Chief Minister visiting  Cho Ramaswamy who was in hospital and enquiring about his health.

See the report here

The case has been booked under Section 66A and Section 66B of ITA 2000/8 along with Section 408 f IPC.

Will the Supreme Court judges consider this as another lesson in Cyber Law which they should learn? that  Section 66A can still be applied along with Section 66B in such cases?

In our humble opinion which the wise judges may kindly ignore,

The content which was released by the Jaya TV staffer was not defamatory by any standards. At best it would have “Diminished the value of information” which was the asset of the Jaya TV as a company. It was violation of Section 66 and employee contractual terms. Section 66B should be considered as applicable to use of stolen hardware device and not stolen content.

Hence in our opinion the Police were wrong in filing the case both under Section 66A and 66B.

There does not appear to be any malicious intention in the release of the information and the most appropriate action for the “Security Breach” could have been as per the Information Security policy of the company perhaps resulting in a warning to the employee.

What the police have done is a misapplication of law and indicates operation of political influence.

The arrest therefore is not in accordance with the law represented by the sections 66A (Which is no longer in existence) and 66B (Which some Shreya Singhal-2 can now ask the Supreme Court to scrap for upholding the constitutional right of Free Speech of Indian Citizens).

Perhaps the Supreme Court may Suo Moto take action to scrap 66B and/or move an action against the Chennai Police for Contempt of Court.

If however, the Chief Justice and some other Judges of the  Supreme Court who have a better understanding of Cyber Law  are committed to upholding the reputation of the Supreme Court, they should Suo Moto review the Shreya Singhal Judgement and withdraw the scrapping of Section 66A.

……It is a dream (or is it a delusion?) under which an eternal optimist like me would  prefer to  live with.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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