Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, on Tuesday, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said people in power should be tolerant and liberal towards criticism.
“We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court. The government is committed to free speech. India is a democratic country and free flow of ideas should be respected. We do not seek to curtail any right,” Prasad told reporters in a press meet here. The minister, however, said it was important to have self-regulation as well when expressing thoughts in social media. “There are lakhs of people in India indulging in social media. I am a supporter of self-regulation and would like to say it is important to have self-regulation,” he said. He said social media platforms should also practice some ‘self-restraint’.
Earlier in the day, he said the government did not favour gagging dissent or honest criticism on social media. Prasad said: “We respect communication of ideas on social media, not in favour of curtailing honest criticism, dissent on social media.” Earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech. “Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety…,” said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. “Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law (Section 66A) is vague in its entirety,” said Justice Nariman pronouncing the judgment. The Supreme Court has “read down” Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act which states “upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner”.