The Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the Maharashtra Government and the
Centre to file reply to a petition challenging the validity of Section
66A of Information and Technology (IT) Act, which penalises sending of
"false and offensive" messages through a computer or a communication
The direction by Justices P V Hardas and A M Thipsay came on a
PIL which contends that the section would not apply if the message is
in the public domain, such as the social networking sites, or a blog, or
a website. The court has sought replies within four weeks.
petition has been filed by Majoj Oswal of the NGO 'People for Animals'
(headed by BJP MP Maneka Gandhi). He contends that section 66A is
unconstitutional, and arrests under the same be stayed while the
petition is being heard. It can also be misused against the media as
almost all the TV channels and newspapers are available over the
Internet, the petitioner points out.
He cites the instances such
as arrest of two girls at neighbouring Palghar over criticism - on
Facebook - of shut-down in Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, and
the earlier arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi over his cartoons.
petition contends that the section 66A has not been analysed from a
technological aspect, and it does not apply to Facebook, Twitter,
websites, blogs, etc. It applies where only a sender and receiver are
involved, it says.
The section criminalises the communication not
on the basis of content, but the medium, it argues, because the same
communication would be deemed legal if published in newspaper, but if
put on Internet, it would attract three years in jail.
petitioner points out, it does not distinguish between major and minor
"Someone may call a person a fool, and another person may
threaten to kill someone, but the punishment would be same in both the