Tag Archives: Section 66A Information Technology Act

The Death of 66A and The Dawn of a New Era of Free Speech Jurisprudence: Siddharth Narrain

Guest Post by  SIDDHARTH NARRAIN

It’s not often that India’s Supreme Court strikes down a law in its entirety as a violation of the free speech. But when it does, boy do you want to stand up and cheer. Before a packed courtroom, Justices Rohinton Nariman and G. Chelameswar, pronounced their judgment in Shreya Singhal & Ors. v. Union of India,, striking down, in its entirety, the controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act in its entirety. The full text of the decision is not available yet. But Justice Nariman read out parts of the court decision, enough to give us a sense of what is to come.

Continue reading The Death of 66A and The Dawn of a New Era of Free Speech Jurisprudence: Siddharth Narrain

This Troll Has a Very Long Nose

Ironically, the random arrest of people for tweets or Facebook postings made some of us happy—happy that, at last, citizens have started showing concern about internet censorship. But lock-up gates had to clang at night on the faces of a few people before we realised that, in our pompous democracy, the might of the state is Ctrl-Alt-Deleting opinion with such serious zeal. The arrests have been made under Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, notified in October 2009. This section makes punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment anything that is perceived as “grossly offensive” but does not set out the parameters of how to decide on that—even if we were to believe that could at all be done. Questions about these arrests are deflected: the government blames the police, the police says a vague law is the problem, and those who file the complaints that lead to such arrests say that they are free to seek enforcement of an existing law.

Anyone can see that the section is not designed to nudge a case towards a conviction verdict. It is designed only to harass. Arrests, courtwork, bail. You are ground down, but the government spokesman is able to say, “The law is taking its own course.” The implication: “Aren’t you grateful you have obtained bail?” But the recent arrests have caused outrage. Taking up a PIL against the section, the Supreme Court had said in December that had it not been filed, it would have taken up the matter anyway. Despite this, the government defended the section in the Rajya Sabha, refusing to repeal it and merely adding guidelines that such arrests should be made by an officer of a higher rank—as if that would make it better.

Read more, here.

Fettering the fourth estate: Free Speech in 2012

Fettering the Fourth Estate: Free Speech in 2012

A report of the Free Speech Hub of the Hoot.org

The year 2012 ended with a Kannada TV reporter, Naveen Soorinje, in jail for more than fifty days after the Karnataka High Court denied him bail. Mangalore-based Soorinje, was incarcerated from November 7, 2012 after police charged him under the UAPA and under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for reporting on the raid on a homestay party by a Hindu fundamentalist group in July. Soorinje’s bail application was rejected on December 26.

The same month, a television journalist, Nanao Singh, was shot dead in a police firing in Manipur.

In 2012, India was a grim place for free speech. It recorded the death of five journalists. Another 38 were assaulted, harassed or threatened.    There were 43 instances of curbs on the Internet, 14 instances of censorship in the film and music industry, and eight instances of censorship of content in the print medium. Continue reading Fettering the fourth estate: Free Speech in 2012