New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Central government as well as five states, including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Delhi while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to scrap Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by Delhi student Shreya Singhal, who contended that "the phraseology of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 is so wide and vague and incapable of being judged on objective standards, that it is susceptible to wanton abuse and hence falls foul of Article 14, 19 (1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution."
In its notice to the Maharashtra government, the apex court sought explanation from the state government on the recent arrest of two girls from Palghar for posting comments on Facebook.
"The Maharashtra government is directed to explain the circumstances under which the two girls - Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan - were arrested for posting comments made by them on Facebook," a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswar said.
The bench has asked the state government to file its response within four weeks.
The bench also made as parties the governments of West Bengal and Puducherry where similar incidents had happened in the recent past.
It also issued notice to the Delhi government along with them and sought their response within four weeks and posted the matter for hearing after six weeks.
The Apex Court had on Thursday agreed to hear a plea to amend the Information Technology Act and sought Attorney General G E Vahanvati's help in deciding it.
Clarifying the government’s stand, Vahanvati told the SC that the government is coming out with guidelines to ensure that section 66A of IT Act is not misused.
“Please examine section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and I will assist the court on this issue,” the Attorney General told the court.
The AG also referred to the guidelines which say that cases to be registered under the provision of the IT Act has to be decided by senior police officials of the ranks of DGP for cases pertaining to rural areas and IGP for metros.
"This can't be done by the head of the police stations," the AG said, adding that this was a matter which required the court's consideration.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Shreya, sought a direction from the court that no cases be registered across the country unless such complaints are seen and approved by the DGP of the state concerned.
The arrests which have been referred to by Shreya in her petition include that of a 21-year-old girl for questioning on Facebook the shutdown in Mumbai after Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's death, which was 'liked' and shared by her friend, who was also arrested.
The government had on Thursday issued guidelines that state approval from an officer of DCP level at rural areas and IG level in metros will have to be sought before registering complaints under section 66A of the IT Act.