Govt: no curbs on freedom of speech in social media

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 17, 2014

In the on-going case challenging the provisions of the Information Technology Act, the Government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that there are no restrictions on freedom of expression in the social media.

The Supreme Court had recently said that it was ‘sure’ that Section 66A of the Act, which empowers police to make arrests over social media messages, ‘does not silence anyone’ adding such means may have a ‘chilling effect’ on one’s right to speech.

PM’s intervention Sources from the Government said that this stance has been taken after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direct intervention in the matter and is in line with his beliefs on the use of social media.

“The Government submitted that the provisions of the IT Act requires to be read strictly in conformity with Article 19[2] of the Constitution of India which guarantees freedom of speech,” the official said.

The provisions of the IT Act were challenged by petitioners Shreya Singhal and a non-profit organisation Common Cause, in which a Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and SA Bobde recognised that misuse of Section 66A in case of ‘unpalatable political activity’ had to be checked.

The Bench had said that for individuals in the public sphere, the ambit of the section had to be defined.

The petition was filed in 2012 post the arrest of Mumbai-based Shaheen Dhada for criticising on social media about the ‘city’s shutdown’ after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s death.

The official said that while law must regulate some grossly offensive material which is ‘not in the interest of the nation or in the interest of the society’, there should be complete freedom of expression in this potent medium of social change.

The matter has been scheduled for the next hearing on January 13, 2015.

Published on December 17, 2014
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