The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday a petition challenging the arrest of lawyer and human rights activist Jaya Vindhyala under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act for allegedly posting derogatory comments on Facebook against Chirala Congress MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan and Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah. A vacation Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Dipak Misra posted the matter after a mention was made by advocate Manali Singhal for urgent hearing of the petition.
Three cases were registered against Ms. Vindhyala, who is president of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and she was released on bail in one.
Petitioner Shreya Singhal, who has already challenged the constitutional validity of Section 66A of the IT Act, said the police had invoked this and Section 120(B) — criminal conspiracy — of the Indian Penal Code. She said the phraseology of Section 66A was too vague, hence it was tantamount to abuse and thus the provision was violative of Articles 14, 19(1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution.
Referring to the Centre’s January 9, 2013 advisory to all States, mandating that no arrest under Section 66A be made without approval of an officer not below the rank of IG in metropolitan cities and an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police or SP in districts, Ms. Shingal said the legality of this warning was questionable as law and order is a State subject. Furthermore, such an advisory would not help to prevent abuse of Section 66A.
“Nonetheless, it is not known whether the advisory was at all followed in the instant case,” she said, praying for a directive that no authority initiate any coercive step on the basis of Section 66A till after the hearing and disposal of the main writ petition challenging the provision.
She sought release of Ms. Vindhyala on bail in respect of the First Information Report filed by the MLA at Chirala in Prakasam district, and an interim stay on all proceedings thereof.