Section 66A: Celebrating freedom of thought!

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The recent political graph of India has been quite rocky, witnessing multiple highs and lows over a period of time. The recent Supreme Court judgment declaring Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 as “unconstitutional” comes across as a milestone in the nation’s legal history. A billion strong population preaching the ideologies of democracy and freedom has undone one of the few strings that refrained it’s people from speaking out loud. Shreya Singhal, the woman behind the successful strike down of this legal provision is a 24 year-old law student who was the first to raise voice against a vaguely drafted provision of law in the IT Act prohibiting absolute freedom of expression on online media.

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According to the Act, any person who shares information via the internet that is “grossly offensive”, “annoying”, “inconvenient” or “dangerous” is liable to be charged as guilty and shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. However, given the subjective nature of the aforementioned terms, the law makes a vague provision and remains significantly inconclusive to hold someone culpable.

In this regard, the verdict delivered by a bench of justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman remarked, “The law clearly affects the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the constitution.” The apex court also added that the section was in violation of Section 19(a) of the constitution which constitutes the right to free speech and threatens the right of the people to question and defend.

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Embarking on a victory for free speech, Singhal, the original applicant of the PIL filed in 2012 remarked that the imprisonment of Aseem Trivedi in 2012 accused of sedition by ‘mocking the constitution’ in his cartoons distressed her.Further, the arrest of Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, both aged 21 following a complaint filed by Shiv Sena member Bhushan Sankhe “outraged” her. In both the cases, the accused were charged for being vocal on social media about how they perceived the government.While Trivedi drew a cartoon depicting politicians altering the national emblem, the Palghar girls were criminalised for posting a Facebook status about the shutdown following Bal Thackerey’s death.

Although it took three years for the nation to reach this verdict, the entire nation has applauded this decision. The foundation of any growing economy is based on it’s ability to indulge in a transparent discussion and positive criticism of its performance. With the fear of being brought down by law no longer in place, all of us can voice ourselves and initiate new conversations.

You can tweet or post the status you were holding back because all’s well that ends well.

 

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