The Union home ministry on Wednesday directed state and Union Territory governments to immediately withdraw all existing cases under the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The governments have also been asked to direct police stations not to register cases under the provision.
The provision allowed the police to make arrests for posting offensive content online. The Supreme Court struck down the section on March 24, 2015, after hearing a petition filed against it by Mumbai-based law student Shreya Singhal. She had approached the court after two women were arrested for questioning the shutdown in Mumbai for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s funeral.
In an official release on Wednesday, the home ministry said that it has asked states and Union Territories to sensitise law enforcement agencies to comply with the Supreme Court’s order repealing the section.
The home ministry’s order came days after the Supreme Court said it was shocked that cases were still being filed under the section.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, which sought that the police be advised against filing cases under the section. The petition said that 745 cases registered under the section are still pending before the districts courts in 11 states.
After the provision was struck down in 2015, 332 cases were filed in the country under the section during that year itself, according to the Hindustan Times. Subsequently, 216 cases were registered in 2016, while 290 cases were registered in 2017.
In 2018, as many as 318 cases were registered, while there were 253 cases in 2019. Thirty-four cases were filed till February 2020, the newspaper reported.