New Delhi, Sep 20 IANS | 2 years ago

Maintaining that the rights of individual had to be balanced with the powers of the state, the Supreme Court Friday said it would be holding a final hearing in January on the batch of petition challenging the validity of Section 66A of Information Technology Act.

A bench of Justice H.L. Gokhale and Justice J. Chelameswar said the state should also have power "because some news will have repercussions", referring to clashes in Myanmar which had repercussions in Bangalore resulting in people from northeastern states fleeing from the city.

The court's observation when counsel Manali Singhal, appearing for Shreya Singhal who had challenged the provision's constitutional validity, told it that Section 66A curtailed rights.

Shreya Singhal had moved the apex court following the arrest of two girls - Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan - for posting comments critical on Mumbai bandh in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

While directing the listing of the matter for final hearing in the first week of January, the court gave the last opportunity to the states which had not filed their reply to the notices issued by it.

The apex court Nov 30, 2012 had issued notice to the central and Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Puducherry governments on the petition by Shreya Singhal. Later on a number of other petitioners including NGO Common Cause too moved the apex court challenging the validity of Section 66A.

The section reads: "Any person who sends by any means of a computer resource any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine."

Shreya Singhal's PIL had said that 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".

"...this provision is indeed capable of wanton abuse in view of the subjective discretion of the police and the susceptibility of it being invoked cavalierly. In fact, the... recent events fortify the apprehensions of the petitioner", the PIL said.

(Posted on 20-09-2013)