In sharp contrast to all the efforts made in and outside the court to strike down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2009 was the very enactment of the amendment during the 2008 winter session of Parliament. It was one of the seven Bills cleared by the Lok Sabha in seven minutes on the penultimate day, and passed by the Rajya Sabha the following day without discussion.
This was, in fact, pointed out by Communist Party of India (Marxist) member P. Rajeeve in the Rajya Sabha on December 14, 2012, when he moved a resolution on Section 66A in the wake of three prominent cases of the provision being used by the authorities to “harass social media users.”
Today, he and the two other parliamentarians who were vocal against Section 66A — Baijayant Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an Independent, – stand vindicated as all had warned the then Congress-led UPA government against creating space for such judicial intervention.
“This was bound to happen, and I had asked the government then why the legislature — which should be vetting laws and making them as loophole-free as possible — should be creating space for the judiciary,” Mr. Rajeeve told The Hindu .
Echoing this, Mr. Panda — who had introduced a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha to “drastically water down” Section 66A — said: “Only wish we in Parliament could have done it, instead of [yet again] leaving it to the judiciary to do our work.”
Like his colleagues, Mr. Chandrasekhar was also much toasted and in demand through the day as journalists sought their reactions to the verdict in recognition of their support for the cause of freedom of expression.
All three took to Twitter to celebrate the verdict. In Twitter lingua franca , Mr. Chandrasekhar tweeted: “#section66a struck downn!! VICTORY!!!! my petition in supreme court upheld!! #transformindia. A journey that began in 2013 nw comes to a close. Feeling happy and fulfilled! Congrats 2 all petitioners n Indians! #freespeechwins.”
Mr. Panda welcomed the verdict in a similar fashion on Twitter. “Just landed from a flight to the grt news of SC striking down section #66A of the IT Act! I’d advocated it, even filed a pvt members bill.” Besides posting a message in Malayalam on Facebook, Mr. Rajeeve tweeted: “Respect to our judiciary ,,, Absolutely a BIG WIN for FREE SPEECH…”