The Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday ordered notice to Union Home Secretary, Law Secretary and Information and Broadcasting Secretary apart from the Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police in Puducherry to reply to a public interest litigation petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

A Division Bench of Justices K.N. Basha and P. Devadass ordered issuance of the notices returnable by four weeks and adjourned the hearing of the case thereafter.

A. Marx, a human rights activist here, had filed the PIL petition in the wake of the arrest of businessman Ravi Srinivasan by Puducherry police last month for having tweeted against Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram.

During arguments, the petitioner’s counsel A. Rajini contended that Section 66A was against the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution.

“The freedom being enjoyed by the Press was not being provided to online communication,” she said and referred to the latest incident of two women arrested in Mumbai on Tuesday for posting and liking a comment on Facebook questioning a bandh in view of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s death.

Judge’s question

However, Mr. Justice Basha wondered whether seeking the declaration of a legal provision as illegal and ultra vires the Constitution would be the right remedy for the situation. “You must remember that even you would not be able to invoke the provision in case you are genuinely aggrieved against some communication made by another individual,” the judge said before ordering notices.

The Section states that any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or communication device, any information that was grossly offensive or has a menacing character could be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of three years, besides imposing appropriate fine.

In the case of Mr. Srinivasan he had tweeted that “karthick chidambaram had amassed more wealth than vadra” and the police arrested him on the basis of an e-mail complaint lodged by Mr. Karti.