Free Press Journal

Why arrest boy for Facebook comment, SC asks UP 


New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Uttar Pradesh government why a class 11 was arrested for allegedly posting objectionable comments against state minister Azam Khan on Facebook.

A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman sought the response to the plea challenging the boy’s arrest.

Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee raised the matter, questioning the state government’s action invoking section 66A of Information Technology Act to book a schoolboy for allegedly making objectionable comments against Azam Khan, a senior leader of the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party.

The boy was granted bail on Thursday.

Every law could be abused, the court observed as Sorabjee told the court that their apprehension of section 66A being misued has been vindicated.

As Uttar Pradesh government counsel told the court that Vicky Khan’s post on social networking site was “derogatory and inflammatory”, Justice Nariman said that he has seen it.

Counsel told the court that Vicky Khan was booked under section 66A as well the Indian penal Code’s section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc), section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and section 505 (public mischief).

The state government, while asserting that Vicky Khan’s age was 23 and not 19 as being mentioned in the application by advocate Manali Singhal, also questioned her locus standi to raise the issue.

The court was told that appropriate remedies were available to the accused Vicky Khan to redress his grievance.

The court gave the state government four weeks to file its response.

Section 66A of the IT Act which is the bone of contention reads: “Any person who sends by any means of a computer resourceaany information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; or any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”

Singhal had moved an application seeking relief for Vicky Khan in a case by Shreya Singhal on which the apex court had reserved its verdict on December 17.

Shreya Singhal had moved the Supreme Court November 2012 seeking the striking down of Section 66A which was resorted to by the authorities to arrest two young girls, Shaheen Dhanda, 21, who had questioned the Mumbai shutdown after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray Nov 17 and her friend Renu Srinivasan who had ‘liked’ the comment on Facebook.

Shreya Singhal had contended that the section was vague and impossible to judge by objective standards, and thus liable to misuse.