PIL on IT Act: SC seeks AG's help



New Delhi: Concerned over recent incidents of arrest of people allegedly for posting offensive messages on social networking sites, the Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea to amend the Information Technology Act and sought Attorney General GE Vahanvati's help in deciding it.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, however, refused the petitioner's plea that no coercive action should be taken by the government authorities against people for posting such messages on websites during pendency of the case.

The court posted the matter for further hearing tomorrow.

While agreeing to hear the case, the bench said it was considering to take suo motu cognisance of recent incidents of arrest of people and wondered why nobody had so far challenged the particular provision of the IT Act.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by Delhi student Shreya Singhal, who contended that "the phraseology of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 is so wide and vague and incapable of being judged on objective standards, that it is susceptible to wanton abuse and hence falls foul of Article 14, 19 (1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution."

She submitted that "unless there is judicial sanction as a prerequisite to the setting into motion the criminal law with respect to freedom of speech and expression, the law as it stands, is highly susceptible to abuse and for muzzling free speech in the country."

The arrests which have been referred to by Shreya in her petition include that of a 21-year-old girl for questioning on Facebook the shutdown in Mumbai after Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's death, which was 'liked' and shared by her friend, who was also arrested.

Meanwhile, the government today issued guidelines that state approval from an officer of DCP level at rural areas and IG level in metros will have to be sought before registering complaints under section 66A of the IT Act.

PTI