At least five of the several police complaints and FIRs against Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami demanded action against him under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in five years ago. The cases were triggered by Goswami’s studio-debate on the Palghar lynching incident, in which he questioned why Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi was not raising her voice against the lynching of the two sadhus. Several FIRs, at least 16 per Bar & Bench, were filed for the show being defamatory to Sonia Gandhi.
In Himachal Pradesh, Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and Himachal Pradesh Congress president Kuldeep Singh Rathore filed an FIR on April 23 against Arnab Goswami at Shimla Sadar Police Station, demanding action under Section 66A of the IT Act, among other IPC sections.
Odisha MP Saptagiri Ulaka’s police complaint in Delhi included Section 66A, so did a request for an FIR in Maharashtra, and two police complaints in Jharkhand. Another police complaint filed by the Tamil Nadu Youth Congress in Chennai also invoked Section 66A of the IT Act.
Section 66A of the IT Act was a vaguely worded provision which allowed the imprisonment of anybody for posting offensive comments online. The section was often arbitrarily interpreted, and eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal. Last year, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the original petitioners in the Shreya Singhal case asked the Supreme Court for direction that further cases under Section 66A not be permitted.
The Supreme Court had then threatened to jail any official responsible for the continued prosecution and harassment of people under Section 66A. PUCL had said that 22 fresh cases were registered under the section in various states and that older cases had not been scrapped.