The Supreme Court underlined its displeasure on Monday with the practice of police registering FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which was ruled down by the top court in the Shreya Singhal case in 2015. An application filed by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) under the terms set out in section 66A was heard by the bench headed by Justice RF Nariman seeking different directions and guidance against FIR.
“What is going on is dreadful,” Justice Nariman said after learning that thousands of FIRs have been lodged since Section 66A was repealed.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, urged the court to “please look at how cases have increased… people are suffering,” and to order the centre to collect all data on FIRs and active investigations under the repealed law, as well as cases still pending in courts.
Mr. Parikh stated that there were 229 pending cases prior to the repeal of Sec 66A. There have been 1,307 new cases filed since then, with 570 still outstanding. The state of Maharashtra had the most (381), followed by Jharkhand (291), Uttar Pradesh (245), and Rajasthan (192).
Andhra Pradesh (38), Assam (59), Delhi (28), Karnataka (14), Telangana (15), Tamil Nadu (7), and Bengal are among the states that have filed Sec 66A cases since it was struck down (37).
The petitioner also noted that the Supreme Court ordered that copies of the judgement repealing 66A be made accessible to every district court via the appropriate High Court in February 2019.
KK Venugopal, India’s Attorney General, stated that even if the clause has been struck down by the division court, it remains in the plain statute.
The fact that the SC has struck down is only noted in the footnote. “The police aren’t going to look at the footnote in any case,” Justice Nariman stated.
The AG advised that next to each provision in bare acts, there should be a note in brackets stating that the provision has been struck down.
Justice Nariman requested that the Union of India file a counter-affidavit, and the case was adjourned for two weeks. The judge stated, “We will do something.”