Decoding Section 66A of the IT Act By Rahul Saxena @lexcliq

The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 provides for legal recognition for transactions through electronic
communication, also known as e-commerce. The Act also penalizes various forms of cybercrime. The Act was
amended in 2009 to insert a new section, Section 66A, which was said to address cases of cybercrime with the
advent of technology and the Internet. In more specific terms, Information Technology Act 2000 addressed the
following issues:
1. Legal recognition of electronic documents.
2. Legal recognition of digital signatures.
3. Offenses and contraventions.
4. Justice dispensation systems for cybercrimes.
5. Section 10A of Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) it also validates E-contracts.

2008 Amendment of the IT Act, 2000

The 2008 Amendment Act was passed with no discussion in the House. Some of the cyber law observers have
criticized the amendments on the ground of lack of legal and procedural safeguards to prevent violation of civil
liberties of Indians. However, there have also been appreciation about the amendments from many observers
because it addresses the issue of Cyber Security.
Section 66A is widely criticized. It has led to numerous abuses as reported by the press. Based on Section 66A,
Bombay High Court has held that creating a website and storing false information on it can entail cybercrime. On
March 24, 2015 the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the IT Act as unconstitutional on the
grounds of violating Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which grants freedom of speech and expression.
Describing the law as “vague in its entirety,” the Supreme Court said, it encroaches upon “the public’s right to
know. Then comes Section 69A, which empowers the Central Government/State Government/its authorized agency to
intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer
resource if it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defense of
India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to
the commission of any cognizable offence or for investigation of any offence.

Section 66(A) of the Act criminalizes the sending of offensive messages through a computer or other
communication devices. Under this provision, any person who by means of a computer or communication device
sends any information that is:
1. grossly offensive;
2. false and meant for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury,
criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will;
3. meant to deceive or mislead the recipient about the origin of such messages, etc., shall be punishable
with imprisonment up to three years and with fine.
Over the past few years, incidents related to comments, sharing of information, or thoughts expressed by an
individual to a wider audience on the Internet have attracted criminal penalties under Section 66(A). This has
led to discussion and debate on the ambit of the Section and its applicability to such actions.
In the recent past, a few arrests were made under Section 66(A) on the basis of social media posts directed at
notable personalities, including politicians. These were alleged to be offensive in nature.

For example, the provision was used by Thane police to arrest two girls from Palghar for their comments on Facebook, but an
apologetic Maharashtra government said the arrests were unwarranted, hasty, and indefensible. Similarly,
Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist, was arrested invoking the same provision for making sketch on the state of
parliamentary conduct of the politicians and was charged with sedition. Fortunately, the Bombay High Court
quashed the charges against the cartoonist.
The very day the Bombay High Court held that cartoons could not be deemed seditious, a class 11 student from
Bareilly was remanded in judicial custody for a Facebook post allegedly uncharitable towards a UP minister. The
Rampur district police found the post to contain derogatory language and promptly slapped the draconian
section 66A of the Information Technology Act, among other laws, against the boy.
Thus, for some time now section 66A has become a handy tool for state governments to suppress dissent or
even harmless humor that thin-skinned politicians cannot stomach.

One of the PILs was filed by Shreya Singhal, then a 21-year-old law student in Delhi. She
challenged Section 66A arguing that it curbed freedom of speech and expression and violated
fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.Her petition contended that the law was “vague”, “ambiguous” and subject to “wanton abuse” as it conferred subjective powers on the police to interpret Section 66A of the IT Act.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Rohinton F Nariman agreed with the
contention holding that Section 66A created an offence on the basis of undefined actions
such as causing “inconvenience, danger, obstruction and insult”.The Supreme Court held that these actions were not mentioned as exceptions granted under Article 19 and did not qualify for reasonable restrictions mentioned in the Constitution.


There is a pressing need to move from a system where communication about judicial decisions is at the mercy of initiatives by scrupulous officers, to a method not contingent on human error to the greatest possible extent. The urgency cannot be overstated. Enforcing unconstitutional laws is sheer wastage of public money. But more importantly, until this basic flaw is addressed, certain persons will remain exposed to denial of their right to life and personal liberty in the worst possible way imaginable .They will suffer the indignity of lawless arrest and detention, for no reason other than their poverty and ignorance, and inability to demand their rights.






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