SC to hear plea against Andhra government on Section 66A

New Delhi, May 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court will Thursday hear a plea seeking to restrain the Andhra Pradesh government from invoking Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to stifle people for posting allegedly objectionable comments on social network websites.

An apex court vacation bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Dipak Misra directed the listing of the application that has sought to restrain authorities in the country from initiating “any coercive steps on the basis of Section 66A of the IT Act” till the court pronounces its verdict on the matter pending before it.

The instant application is rooted in the arrest of Andhra Pradesh rights activist Jaya Vindhyalaya (who has since been released) for posting allegedly derogatory comments on her Facebook timeline on Chirala MLA Amanchi Krisna Mohan and Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah.

On a complaint filed by Mohan, police invoked the provisions of Section 66A of the IT Act and Section 120B (Conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Shreya Singhal, who has moved the application in her pending writ petition on the same issue, also sought the stay of all further proceedings against Vindhyalaya, an activist of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in the FIR lodged by Mohan in Chirala in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam district.

Singhal’s application said the “most worrisome aspect” of the arrest of Vindhyalaya is that she had been opposing the local legislator on various issues and had brought out a fact-finding committee’s report on various issues accusing the legislator of malpractices.

The application said the Facebook timeline, which is the basis of the arrest of Vindhyalaya, includes her “petitions submitted under the RTI Act, the PUCL fact-finding committee’s reports, a legal notice sent by the MLA’s counsel, and her reply to it”.

Section 66A of IT Act deals with punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc which cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will.

The PIL had said the “phraseology of the aforesaid section is so wide and vague and incapable of being judged on objective standards, that it is susceptible to wanton abuse”.

Singhal had moved the apex court after a young woman, Shaheen Dhada, and her friend were arrested in Maharashtra for a Facebook post questioning Mumbai’s shutdown following Bal Thackeray’s death last year.

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