Sec 66 A and Nehru Gandhi legacy

The way the Act is worded, many experts feel it is ultra vires the Constitution’s Article 19(1)(a), which enshrines freedom of speech. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition on it and it has issued notices to state governments like Maharashtra and also the Centre. The next hearing is scheduled for 14 January 2013. It was originally planted by Jawaharlal Nehru, who introduced the first amendment to the constitution to curtail press freedom.

Nehru and threat from left and right
Two court decisions in 1949, upholding the right to free speech by people on the far right and far left impacted Nehru 1.The case involved Romesh Thapar, in which the Madras government, after declaring the Communist party illegal, banned the Left leaning magazine Crossroads as it was sharply critical of the Nehru government. The court held that banning a publication on the ground of threat to public safety or public order was not supported by the constitutional scheme since the exceptions to 19(1)(a) were much more specific and had to entail a danger to the security of the state. 2.The other case related to an order by the Chief Commissioner, Delhi, asking Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece, to submit all communal matters and materials related to Pakistan to scrutiny. It was in this context that Nehru’s government decided to amend the Constitution inserting the words ‘public order’ and ‘relations with friendly states’ into Article 19(2).

INDIRA Continues the Legacy
Indira Gandhi imposed an internal emergency and introduced comprehensive censorship of the media and, unfortunately, most of our media” crawled when asked to bend.” In addition to the common man, the judiciary and the media bore the maximum brunt of the impact of the emergency. The Supreme Court, by a majority of four to one, held that a person could be arrested or detained without legitimate grounds and there was no remedy in the law courts since all fundamental rights were suspended. The attorney-

‘criminal intimidation’. . ‘insult’ and promoting ‘hatred’ or ‘ill. which sought powers to censor and intercept all mail.will’ between groups. it is the turn of Section 66A. — the first country to do so — an act that would attract the attention of the whole world in terms of curtailing free speech. Rahul-Sonia Era Now. as well as ‘criminal intimidation is ridiculous. most of these offences are already covered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. offenders often get booked under both the statues for the same offence. in this Sonia-Rahul dispensation. President Zail Singh precipitated a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign the bill and the country was saved from such a draconian law. Problems Clause (a) of Section 66A uses expressions such as ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘menacing’ which are not only difficult to define but also highly subjective Clause (b) prescribes penalties for offences such as ‘annoyance’. 1860 (IPC). The Rajiv Gandhi government banned Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.general of India argued — a citizen could be killed illegally and no remedy was available since there were no fundamental rights of the citizen any more. The letters would be censored and ordinary people arrested for the crime of sending letters criticising the government. The law would have allowed him to set up an entire department with huge offices in all cities to look at every letter sent in the mail. As a result. Prescribing the same punishment for ‘annoyance’. Moreover. The Press Council of India was formed after the ending of Emergency and its main aim was to safeguard the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. Role of Rajiv Gandhi Rajiv Gandhi also made a crude attempt to pass a Postal bill. Fortunately.

penalties for the same offences are higher in the IT Act as compared to those in the IPC. This does not augur well for freedom of speech and it is increasingly becoming an issue of whether there is freedom after speech.In some cases. Also SM is perceived to be more right wing compared to the left liberal nature of the mainstream media or MSM. For instance. threatening someone with injury to their reputation through email attracts a penalty of three years’ imprisonment under the IT Act while the same offence when committed verbally attracts a penalty of two years’ imprisonment under the IPC (Section 503 and 506) Under the Code of Criminal Procedure. when they were hauled up under sedition laws in their time (Source: blog of IIM Bangalore professor) . it would attract a higher penalty than otherwise. Thus. But one hopes that our Supreme Court will throw this draconian lock. This means that a police officer can make the arrest without a warrant. stock and barrel since it is against basic norms of free speech. In any case. 1973. offences punishable with a jail term of three years or more are ‘cognisable’. what was started by Nehru is coming to a full circle under his granddaughter-in-law and great grandson. Conclusion: The particular focus on social media may be mainly due to the fact it is not amenable to government diktats due to patronage in the form of advertising. This leaves more discretion to the police officer and makes the section liable to misuse. etc. if an offence is committed through an electronic medium such as the Internet. as much argued by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.