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Sec 66A of IT: Don’t gag my voice, my Constitution guarantees me freedom of speech
The essence of democracy is people’s free voice. What, if it is gagged by draconian law like Section 66A of IT act 2000? The democracy gets killed and constitutional guarantee to Indian citizen sounds redundant.

Prakash Javadekar, the new Minister of Information and Broadcasting, recently made a point that freedom of press is the pillar of democracy. He also said that media itself suffice for self-regulation. But in government books, it seems that ordinary person cannot have the freedom of expression which media can have.

Doesn’t social media qualify to be given right of freedom of expression? Perhaps the new minister did want to land up in controversy, by saying the same words and extending the same freedom for social media. Probably, he did not want to step onto the turf of Telecom Ministry. But recent arrests for anti-Modi tweets in Goa and Karnataka under draconian section 66A of IT act 2000 suggests that this bad law is always found encroaching on to the turf of Article 19 in our constitution and the government doesn’t want to guarantee it.

Article 19 simply says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Founding Section 66A of the act to be very discretionary and dangerous for free speech, an independent Member of Rajya Sabha, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who had also supported Modi for PM and is also a champion for right to freedom of expression had also filed PIL in Supreme Court in January last year in which he challenged not only Section 66A but also the entire IT act and sought its annulment.

In his opinion, Section 66A is arbitrary and uncanalized and violates the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. P. Rajeeve, another Member of Parliament had also has termed Section 66A draconian and had sought its review and amendment. 

Section 66A has also been challenged by students to ordinary citizens and various citizens’ organizations like Centre for Internet and Society, Software Freedom Law Centre. Pranesh Prakash from Centre for Internet and Society has been constantly calling that Section 66A violates Article 19 of our Constitution.

There are two challenges for Modi’s government. First, to prevent misuse of section 66A and second to open a discussion with society and stakeholders as the current law poses risk to our democracy and violate the constitutional rights of freedom and speech and expression on social media. The element of discretion and ambiguity in understanding and application of section 66a needs to reviewed and removed. No Law can violate fundamental rights of citizen.

Internet is a direct mode of speech by people; it is a kind of some replacement for rallies and discussions without a physical congregation. It is a new age 'Chaupal'. Its freedom is necessary. The ways to regulate it will be found out by the users itself in due course of time.

A free Internet is important for democracy and society to converse and connect. There is an urgent need to review entire IT Rules and Section 66A and replace them with a set of rules that allows freedom of speech and expression as our constitution guarantees.


Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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