Cyber law as a discipline is constantly evolving. The recent landmark judgment of the Supreme Court on cyber law and its various nuances represent a step forward in the evolving jurisprudence.
I have been writing about the immense problems in Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). It symbolised the tyranny of ambiguous, vague terms over the purity of legitimate free speech. It represented a tool for suppressing bona fide free speech, which was extensively misused.
The Section 66A was your foe than your friend. In scrapping Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Supreme Court has done a great service to the cause of free speech of vibrant, digital Indians. Digital free speech in India owes a great deal to the yeoman service done by the Supreme Court in rendering the present judgment.
This judgment will help restore the confidence of the people in the fact that their valuable freedom of speech and expression on the Internet is governed by the Constitution and not dictated by arbitrary, vague legal provisions.
The fear psychosis perpetuated by Section 66A has vanished. This judgment ushers in a new era of free, fearless exchange of ideas in the digital ecosystem marketplace of ideas.
The judgment is based on sound legal principles, which have been upheld by the Supreme Court from time to time.
However, it is also clear that the said judgment could have consequences for various stakeholders.
From the victimsâ€™ perspective, the judgment takes away from them a legal remedy. Cyber stalking, cyber nuisance, cyber harassment and cyber defamation are extremely prevalent in our country. The advent of the mobile web and over the top applications such as WhatsApp have further provided a fertile ground for cybercriminals to perpetuate their illegal and criminal designs. In such a scenario, the remedy under Section 66A, which was providing some relief to affected persons, is now gone.
Cybercriminals and vested elements would now also be happy that such a notorious section like Section 66A shall no longer be on their head as the Damocles sword.
The provision pertaining to regulating spam as part of Section 66A (c) also stands scrapped. This has to be seen in the light of the fact that India is one of the top spam producing nations in the world and that India does not have any spam law.
Now with Section 66A being declared as unconstitutional, cyber bullying as a phenomenon is likely to continue growing at a rapid pace in India, building on its previous successes.
Also, there would no longer be any sufficient deterrent against widespread rumour mongering on the Internet and the law enforcement agencies might find it difficult to regulate it.