What was the case related to?
- It was related to section 66A of the IT Act 2000
- Section 66A had attained particular infamy after the arrests by the Mumbai police in November 2012 of two women who had expressed their displeasure at a bandh called in the wake of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s death.
- Shreya Singhal vs Union of India case was a judgement by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in 2015 on the issue of online speech and intermediary liability in India
About the judgement
- In this case the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, relating to restrictions on online speech, as unconstitutional on grounds of violating the freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
- The Court held that the Section was not saved by virtue of being a ‘reasonable restriction’ on the freedom of speech under Article 19(2).
- It also held that the prohibition against the dissemination of information by means of a computer resource or a communication device intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or insult did not fall within any reasonable exceptions to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
- The apex Court also read down Section 79 and Rules under the Section.
- It held that online intermediaries would only be obligated to take down content on receiving an order from a court or government authority.
- This landmark case is considered a watershed moment for online free speech in India
What is section 66A of the IT Act 2000?
It defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.