The central government has informed the Supreme Court of India that it has reminded the states and the Union Territories to refrain from registering cases under the Information Technology Act Section 66A, which was quashed by the apex court in the year 2015.
On July 5, the apex court had expressed concerns over the fivefold increase in cases registered under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that was quashed in a 2015 judgment.
The Central government submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that around twenty-one states and several union territories have expressed compliance with the 2015 judgment of quashing Section 66A.
The states and union territories had sent letters to the ministry of information and technology stating that the states will be refraining from registering bulk cases under the section.
The affidavit was filed on July 27 in the apex court stating that the police and public order are a matter of the states.
The affidavit stated that the investigation, detection, prevention, prosecution of criminals are a matter of state as per the Indian Constitution and hence it is the primary responsibility of the state to make sure that cases are not registered under Section 66A.
The affidavit was filed as a response to Justice Rohinton F Nariman’s statement that the increase in cases registered under Section 66A has reached five-fold, even after the provision was determined to be void by the apex court in 2015.
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was regarded as draconian by experts as it authorized the officials and police to arrest citizens over social media posts that were offensive or menacing to the democracy of India.
An application was submitted by the non-profit organization called People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which revealed that around two hundred and twenty-nine cases from eleven states registered under Section 66A were pending before the Supreme Court.
After 2015, when the section was struck down by the apex court, the cases increased to 1,307 under the provision.
Sanjay Parikh, a senior advocate who appeared for the NGO stated that the Supreme Court in the year 2019 had noted that the director-general of police, the chief secretaries of all the union territories, and states of India, must ensure that the 2015 judgment of quashing the section should be followed.
The IT Ministry pointed out that around twenty-one states and several union territories had written to them during the period of January and April of 2019, asserting that they have issued directions to the police departments of their states and ensure that they comply with the 2015 judgment.
The affidavit stated that Maharashtra, one of the states which have lodged the highest cases, is not mentioned in the list. Jharkhand has registered around two hundred and ninety-one cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for two hundred and forty-five cases.