The arrest of a 19-year-old boy by the Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday for allegedly posting an “objectionable” statement, attributed to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, on Facebook is in contradiction to the Union government’s repeated assurances in the Supreme Court on free speech on the social media.
The government had said that a person was free to express political dissent, contrarian views and decent humour, and no one would “dare” charge him under Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It promised that dissent would not be classified as “grossly offensive” or “menacing” under the provision. However, Vicky Khan from Bareilly has been charged with the provision.
The government stated its position before a Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman. The court, late last month, reserved its judgment on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of provisions such as Section 66(A).
During the month-long hearings, the court’s focus was on the arrest of two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan, in Thane district of Maharashtra. They were arrested after one of them posted an FB comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other had ‘liked’ it.