India to stop filing complaints under abolished computer law against free speech
In 2015, the Indian Supreme Court struck down a controversial computer law that stifled free speech. He said at the time that section 66A of the Data Protection Act was “vague in its entirety” because it punished anyone storing information that could be false or “grossly offensive or of a threatening nature”.
However, a request filed by The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a non-profit organization, revealed that six years after the judgment, police stations across the country had filed more than 1,500 cases under the abandoned law. Given the nature of the act, it is easy to incriminate anyone by accusing them of storing false information with the intention of dangerous activities.
Before the law was repealed, disbelievers used it to prosecute people denouncing the prime minister, making cartoons about parliament or criticizing the state government. It has been misused to crush any critical voices against the authorities.
After the case was brought against the Supreme Court last week, he informed the government to file a response outlining what it is doing to end the practice.
Last night, the Home Office (MHA) sent a notice to all states, saying all police stations across the country should drop all cases filed under the abolished law. Additionally, he called on states to “disinfect” police stations and educate them not to bring cases under Computer Law 66A.
Good news! The Home Office (MHA) issued a notification ordering all states and UTs to sensitize law enforcement officials to strictly adhere to Shreya Singhal v. Union of India and withdraw all cases under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. (1 / n) pic.twitter.com/IlkILFv9yk
– Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) July 14, 2021
Surprisingly, the act is still there in the law book to which the cops refer when filing cases. While there is a footnote to the 2015 Supreme Court judgment, the classification officer may not review it at all.
Hopefully the court and the ministry will work together to remove this rule from the book entirely and reverse the crippling effect against free speech across the country.