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Supreme Court expressed shocking to learn people still booked under Section 66A of IT Act

The Supreme Court on Monday said it was “amazing” and “shocking” to learn that individuals are still being booked and tried under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, even six years after the apex court scrapped the provision as “unconstitutional and a violation of free speech”.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman, KM Joseph, and B R Gavai issued notice to the Centre on an application filed by NGO, ‘Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL).’

Senior counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioners, apprised the court that before the scrapping of Sec 66A there were 229 pending cases. Since then, 1,307 new cases had been registered, of which 570 are still pending.

Such cases have increased and people are suffering, he said, praying the top court to direct the Centre to collect all data on FIRs and active investigations under this scrapped law, as well as cases still pending in courts.

The court has sought a response from the central government in two weeks.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the Centre, told the court that even though it is struck down by the division bench, the section 66 A is still there and one can see it written that the provision has been scrapped in the footnote.

However, when a police officer has to register a case, he sees the section and registers the case without going through the footnote.

“Instead what can be done is that we can put a bracket just after section 66A and mention that it has been scrapped. We can in the footnote put the entire extract of the verdict,” he said.

Section 66A was struck down on March 24, 2014, by the Supreme Court, after it was first challenged by a law student named Shreya Singhal.

She was knocking on the doors of the top court after two young women were arrested in Mumbai in 2012 for posting comments critical of the total shutdown in the city after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bala Saheb Thackeray.

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