New Delhi | As part of the landmark judgement on IT act provisions, the Supreme court bench also dealt with Section 118(d) of the Kerala Police Act which was invoked to arrest a person for causing annoyance to others in an indecent manner by communicating through various modes and held it as unconstitutional.
However, what has been said about Section 66A would apply directly to Section 118(d) of the Kerala Police Act, as causing annoyance in an indecent manner suffers from the same type of vagueness and over breadth, that led to the invalidity of Section 66A, and for the reasons given for striking down Section 66A, Section 118(d) also violates Article 19(1)(a) and not being a reasonable restriction on the said right and not being saved under any of the subject matters contained in Article 19(2) is hereby declared to be unconstitutional, it said.
The bench, in its verdict, referred to the Preamble of the Constitution and said it cannot be over emphasized that when it comes to democracy, liberty of thought and expression is a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme. It further said there are three concepts to understand the expression freedom of speech and expression and they are discussion, advocacy and incitement.
Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of Article 19(1)(a). It is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that Article 19(2) kicks in, it said. These three concepts have to be kept in mind while dealing with the issue relating to public order, it said. The bench referred to the definition of information provided in the Act and allowed the plea that section 66A casts the net very wide. Two things will be noticed.
The first is that the definition is an inclusive one. Second, the definition does not refer to what the content of information can be. In fact, it refers only to the medium through which such information is disseminated. It is clear, therefore, that the petitioners are correct in saying that the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66A, it said.
It is clear that the right of the people to know the market place of ideas which the internet provides to persons of all kinds, is what attracts Section 66A, it said, adding that the provision very clearly affects the freedom of speech and expression of citizens.
The Centre had said that the section can be supported under the heads of public order, defamation, incitement to an offence and decency or morality. Under our constitutional scheme, as stated earlier, it is not open to the state to curtail freedom of speech to promote the general public interest, the bench said.
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