September 17, 2021

Case Brief: Shreya Singhal v Union of India

case brief

Case Name: Shreya Singhal v Union of India[1]

Citation- AIR 2015 SC 1523

Judge Bench– Justice J. Ceramicware and Justice Robinson Fali Nariman.

Petitioner- Shreya Singhal and others.

Respondent- Union of India

Facts of Shreya Singhal v Union of India

  • In the year of 2012, two 21 years old girl was arrested by Mumbai police on interpretation of violating section 66A of the IT Act,2000.
  • The background of this case is as follow-
  • There is a short down, which was prearranged in Mumbai due to the death of Siv sea chief Bal Thackeray. These 2 young girls were alleged that they posted a message on their social media platform (Facebook) concerning to short down which was offensive.
  • The real chirped words were – This short down in Mumbai is a result of fear, there is no such respect for the late chief Bal Thackeray.
  • This is the reason why the police arrested those girls and had taken into custody.
  • After that, a huge public protest was underway, and many petitions were filled before the Hon’ble supreme court of India. Many of the citizens are on the estimation that the act on which basis the police arrested was violative of Article 19 which is a fundamental right.

Issues in Shreya Singhal v Union of India

  • whether the section 66A, 69A, and 79 of the information and technology act, 2000 is unconstitutional?
  • whether the above-mentioned section is violative of Article 19(1) which is guaranteed under the constitution of India?
  • whether this section is violative of Article 14 of the constitution of India?

Rule of Law

  • Section 66A of Information Technology Act- Punishment up to 3 years for providing offensive message through any communication medium or device.[2]
  •  Section 69A- Blocking of the website after for public access of any information through any computer resource.[3]
  • Article 19(1) of Indian constitution- Right of freedom of speech and expression.[4]
  • Article 14 of the Indian constitution- Equality before the law and equal protection of law[5].

Analysis

Petitioners- Arguments

  • Section 66A is unconstitutional as it excludes the right of freedom of speech and expression which is guaranteed under Article 19(1). Similarly, all the reasonable limitations are not safeguarded under Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution.
  • As per article 14, no intelligible differentia found in this article. Only one mode of communication has defined in this particular section (66A) that is Internet sources. So, this section is violative of section 14 of the Indian constitution.
  • The words which had used in this section have no legal clarity. These words can be interpreted by any legal enforcement agencies at any time on their will without any restriction. Meaning hears by there are no limitations.
  • It is outside the reach of article19(2) c to cause annoyance and discomfort act.

Respondent side Arguments

  • This is the legal duty of the legislature to make appropriate laws to meet the need of its citizens. As the judiciary is the independent body, the court must judge the validation of any law following the fundamental rights, which are mentioned in part 3 of the Indian constitution.
  • Here the legislature believes that this dispute is legal.
  • Based on probability, we cannot make a law null and void.
  • The language which is used in this section is not void. Such language is used to protect the rights of individuals again whom the social platforms are used to threatened them.
  • As this law is arbitrary and eligible, So, this is constitutional.

Constitutionality of Section 66A of the It Act,2000 [6]

Debating on any particular principle is the core concept of article 19(1). Article19 (2) applies to any subject or any person when it crosses the level of incitement. At this stage, the state has the power to curtail the freedom of speech and expression if the advocacy creates public disorders and violence and affects the sovereignty of friendly relations and dignity of India. Similarly, a state can deprive a person of his right to freedom and expression if it crosses the reasonable restrictions mentioned under article 19(2). [7]

The legality of section 69 Section 69A and 79 of the IT Acts,2000

Section 69A talks about the blockage of the website after for public access of any information through any computer resource. There are certain rules and procedure which are followed before the blocking of the website by any intermediates. Here the question was does it violate the fundamental right of a citizen which is given under article 19 of the Indian constitution. In this case, the APEX court has held that the government agencies have the power to block when it is in the interest of the nation. Unlawful acts beyond the provisions of Article 19(2) cannot form part of Section 79.

Constitutionality of Article 14 of the Indian constitution

In this case, the petitioner also submitted that there is no intelligible differentiation between the media of broadcasting, printing, and live speech concerning free speech on the internet. The APEX court stock downed the petitioner’s arguments that there is no differentiation. The court of light. So here the legislature has the power to make separate laws for it.[8]

Judgement: Shreya Singhal v Union of India

By taking into consideration of both the arguments from both the side the judge bench came in to an end.

  • Section 66A was declared unconstitutional as it is violative of article 19(1)(a). This section is not protected under Article 19(2) of the constitution of India.
  • Section 69A and the rules on IT (procedure and safeguard for blocking public access to information) are constitutional.
  • Section 79 is applicable prior to section 79(3)(b) being interpreted.
  • Section 118(d) of the Kerala Police Act (public order) was repealed.

Conclusion and Opinion

Living in a democratic country will vague if the right to freedom of speech of freedom and expression has meaning. This judgement is one of the landmark judgements with the fortification of right to freedom of speech and expression. Stocking down of section 66A of the IT cat,2000 is an innovative step by the judiciary. Otherwise this section has the potential, which can increase the police brutality and could convert a democratic state to a police state.

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References

[1] AIR 2015 SC 1523.

[2] Section 66A of the IT Act,2000

[3] Section 69A of the IT Act,2000

[4] INDIAN CONST- art-14

[5] INDIAN CONST- art-19

[6] Section 66A of the IT Act,2000

[7] Section 66A of the IT act,2000

[8] INDIAN CONST- art-14


By: Ashutosh Nath (Symbiosis Law School)

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