New Delhi: The central government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it was not averse to the posting of extreme political views on the Internet but submitted documents to buttress its argument that outrageous and offensive contents hurting religious sentiments needed to be blocked.
“The extreme political views or contrary views and decent humour cannot be prohibited," additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court.
Mehta, however, placed documents indicating those posts which had the potential of “outrageously and directly offending" religious sentiments needed to be prohibited on the Internet.
He also wanted that the documents, placed in a sealed cover, should only be examined by the judges; but when petitioners demanded them, Mehta was asked by judges to supply the material. The government’s law officer then requested the contents of the documents be prohibited from being posted on social networking sites and not allowing to be circulated.
The additional solicitor general’s submission came immediately before the Supreme Court resumed hearing arguments in cases challenging the constitutional validity of the controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, along with the provisions pertaining to the blocking and the liability of intermediaries.
The arguments in the petitions started afresh after a change in the composition of the bench hearing the cases. The case is now being heard by justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton Fali Nariman. A bench of justices Chelameswar and S.A. Bobde had heard arguments in December last year.
While there are a series of public interest litigations before the Supreme Court on a host of provisions of the IT Act, the first PIL was filed in 2012 by a law student, Shreya Singhal, seeking amendment of Section 66A, after two girls from Thane district in Maharashtra were arrested as one of them posted a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death and the other ‘liked’ it.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for non-governmental organization Common Cause, started his arguments criticizing the vagueness in the law and the arbitrary arrests made using its provisions. The hearing will continue on Wednesday.