Supreme Court scraps Section 66A of IT Act
In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court has struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, a controversial and much-criticized provision in the cyber law that allowed the authorities to arrest anyone for posting allegedly ‘offensive’ content on websites. Terming it ‘unconstitutional, the court has said it has a ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of speech and expression.
The verdict comes as a relief for social media users as well as India operations of global Internet giants like Google. The latter will no longer be required to take down content after complaints from any party. Only a government or court order can lead to content removal. The Internet & Mobile Association of India, which counts Google, Microsoft, eBay, IBM, Flipkart and LinkedIn as members, said the ruling will encourage more investment in the Internet sector in India.
Section 66A was inserted into the IT Act by the UPA government in 2009, but the Narendra Modi government had largely defended the provision during the court hearing, while promising it won't be used to stifle political dissent.
“Governments may come and governments may go but Section 66A goes on forever. An assurance from the present government even if carried out faithfully would not bind any successor government. It must, therefore, be held that Section 66A must be judged on its own merits without any reference to how well it may be administered,” the bench observed while striking down the law. “...We, therefore, hold that the section is unconstitutional also on the ground that it takes within its sweep protected speech and speech that is innocent in nature and is liable therefore to be used in such a way as to have a chilling effect on free speech and would, therefore, have to be struck down on the ground of over-breadth,” the bench said.
The government can, however, block online content if it follows procedure under Section 69A which creates a three-tier confidential mechanism for blocking. Persons aggrieved by social content can approach a nodal officer in the Information Technology Department. The department’s review committee will then examine the posting, call the person who has posted it if he is identifiable, and then take a call on blocking it. Only a designated officer can pass such orders.
Further, Section 79 is valid subject to Section 79 (3) (b) being read down to mean that an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that unlawful acts relatable to Article 19 (2) are going to be committed, then fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to such material.
Court slams banks for filing suits by faking jurisdiction
A Delhi court has slammed banks for filing suits against customers at places miles away from their residence by ‘faking’ territorial jurisdiction to allegedly secure favourable orders. The court asserts it is against ‘public policy’ to expect a customer or borrower to travel hundreds of kilometres away from their house only to fight a case at a place where he cannot be bound for any action.
Additional District Judge Kamini Lau’s observations came while dismissing an appeal filed by PSU Corporation Bank claiming recovery of outstanding amount from Joginder Pal Arora, a resident of Punjab, who had availed its credit card facility.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the court said in the entire plaint filed by the bank there was nothing on record to suggest that Arora had ever approached the bank or applied for credit facility personally or through postal communication in its Delhi office. It also said that Arora, being a resident of Jalandhar, had used the credit-card facility in Punjab and not in Delhi.
The counsel appearing for the bank told the court that the issue falls under the jurisdiction of court here as after sanctioning of maximum limit, the credit card was dispatched to Arora from its Delhi office.