New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to all the states, Union Territories, and high courts after An NPG filed a plea that said that people are still being booked under the Section 66-A of the IT Act that was scrapped back in 2015.
A bench of Justice R F Nariman and Justice B R Gavai said that since the police is a state subject it would be better if all the states and Uts are made a party to the case.
The Supreme Court said that it is doing this so that a comprehensive order can be passed and the “matter is settled for once and for all”.
“As this matter pertains to police and judiciary, in the fitness of things, we issue notice to all states, Union Territories, and registrar general of all High Courts,” said the bench.
All the states and UTs have been given four weeks time to respond to the notice and have also been provided with a copy of the NGO’s plea.
Sanjay Parikh who was representing the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said that there were two aspects of the issue, one is that the police are booking people under the act, and the second is that such cases are currently being heard in the judiciary.
The top court said that it will issue a notice to all the high courts to ensure that such cases do not happen.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre said that he only got the PUCL rejoinder to the government’s affidavit on Sunday and would like some time to go through it.
The SC on July 5 had said that it was shocking that people were still being booked under a law that was scrapped more than five years back.
The NGO claimed that despite express directions of the court in 2019 that all state governments should sensitise police personnel about the March 24, 2015 judgement, thousands of cases have been registered under the section.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had earlier said that on perusal of the IT Act it can be seen that section 66A features in it, but in the footnote it is written that the provision has been scrapped.
The top court was hearing a fresh application of PUCL saying, “That, shockingly, despite the order dated February 15, 2019 and steps taken towards compliance thereof, the Applicant discovered that Section 66A of the IT Act has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across India”.
The NGO said, “That in spite of the order passed by this Court on February 15, 2019, directing that copies of the judgment of this Court in Shreya Singhal should remain available with every High Court as well as all the District Courts and that the police departments in the entire country i.e. all States and UTs be sensitized about the said judgment, the facts mentioned above show that not only the investigations under Section 66A by the police are continuing but even in the trial courts”.
It sought direction to the Centre to collect all data/ information regarding FIRs/ investigations where Section 66A has been invoked as well as pendency of cases in the courts throughout the country where proceedings under the provision are continuing in violation of the 2015 judgment.
The first PIL on the issue was filed in 2012 by a law student Shreya Singhal who sought an amendment in Section 66A of the Act after two girls – Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan – were arrested in Palghar in Maharashtra’s Thane district.
While one had posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death, the other had ‘liked’ it. PUCL was also one of the petitioners in the earlier case and has challenged the Constitutional validity of section 66A of the IT Act.
With inputs from PTI