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With no book to go by, policemen file cases under repealed laws like 66A of IT Act

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on September 23, 2021

PIL in Delhi HC submits that the knowledge of law is outdated at most police stations

A number of police stations across India do not have copies of the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code or the Indian Evidence Act let alone the amended statute books reflecting repealed sections relating to adultery and decriminalisation of homosexuality.

In 2015, when the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act under which it was punishable for any person to send “offensive” content online, 200 cases related to the Section were pending in different courts. Since then, the number of pending cases have risen to 745.

Statute books

These were submissions in a PIL that the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider as representation for quick action. The PIL sought the removal from the statute books of provisions declared unconstitutional by courts and an assurance from the Law Ministry that police stations have access to the revised statute books and relevant material such as the SC judgments scrapping Sections 66A of the IT Act, and 377 and 497 of the IPC. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Amit Bansal directed the Centre to consider and decide the suggestions made in the PIL as early as possible.

The petitioner, advocate Anshul Bajaj, had filed an RTI in the Home Ministry on April 3, asking if police stations across the country had access to basic statute books, Bare Acts and the amendments effected therein. The replies he received from police stations, especially in far-flung areas in States such as Jharkhand and Bihar, showed that investigating officers did not have access even to the basic statute books let alone their amended versions.

The petitioner drew the Court’s attention to an order of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court directing the Station House Officer of the Vasmat Nagar police station in Hingoli district to buy law books pertaining to various crimes. He said the Supreme Court had recently described as “shocking and terrible” that people are still being booked under Section 66A of the IT Act.

“It is necessary, therefore, to repeal the unconstitutional sections from the Bare Acts or mention in brackets near the provision that the provision has been struck down. Also, it is important to make available relevant amended criminal law books/materials and judgments of the Supreme Court and the respective High Courts that would publicise the obligations and responsibilities of the police officers,” the petitioner prayed.

Published on September 22, 2021

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