The end of Section 66A, the controversial law that allowed arrests for offensive content online, marks a big victory for Shreya Singhal, the young law student who was among the first to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
She was 21 when she filed a petition in 2012, after two young women were arrested for posting comments critical of the total shutdown in Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief.
Shreya comes from a family of lawyers; her mother is a Supreme Court lawyer and her grandmother was a judge.
Shreya says her family encouraged her. "I am also a law student so through my studies also I knew that you can approach the Supreme Court directly," she said, aware that she has achieved, even before becoming a lawyer, what many veterans in the profession haven't.
She spent three years studying astrophysics in the UK before returning to India to apply to law schools. Her attention was drawn to several high-profile arrests of people under Section 66A.
"It is being misused by BJP governments, Congress governments... all over the country. Even when the Congress was in power, it was being misused. Governments have their own political agenda; a law has to be for the people," Shreya said.
The court today had strong words in support of that sentiment as it said, "Governments come and go. We can't act on assurance that Section 66A will not be misused."
What was Section 66(A)?
It is part of the larger Section 66, which deals with "Computer related offences", and outlines punishment of imprisonment up to three years, a fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh, or both.
The purpose of Section 66(A), according to the annotations of the law, reads, "Punishment for sending offensive messages through
"Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device -
a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two three years and with fine.
Explanation: For the purposes of this section, terms "Electronic mail" and "Electronic Mail Message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message."
The Information Technology Act came into force in 2000, but Section 66A was added as an amendment in 2008, which was notified in February 2009.
Source Information : NDTV