Newslaundry introduces you to a few of these crusaders who fought to make today’s ruling a possibility.
A young law student from Delhi, she filed the first public interest litigation in the Supreme Court against Section 66A back in 2012. She pleaded that “Section 66A of the IT Act be struck down as unconstitutional”. Following the arrests of two girls in Maharashtra for posting and liking a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death, she decided to fight the draconian law. Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee presented the arguments on her behalf. (You can watch our interview with her here.)
Faisal Farooqui, CEO, Mouthshut
He filed a writ petition in the top court arguing that Section 66A and Intermediaries Rules interfere with his freedom of speech and freedom to pursue his profession. Mouthshut, a user-generated content and review-based website, was the only corporation that fought against 66A. Mouthshut was represented by Harish Salve as well as Mishi Choudhary.
Prashant Bhushan argued for the non-government organisation, Common Cause, against Section 66A, 69A and 80 of the IT Act. Bhushan challenged the constitutional validity of the Sections. He submitted that these worked against Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution that pertain to Fundamental Rights.
Software Freedom Law Centre India
Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) is a civil liberties organisation set up with the aim of protecting freedom in the digital world. Helmed by Mishi Choudhary, an infotech lawyer, SFLC India initiated the “Freedom in the Net” project under which they have worked with parliamentarians, industry and civil society to push for the modification of problematic sections of the IT Act.
People’s Union For Civil Liberties
Represented by Senior Council Sanjay Parikh and advocates Karuna Nundy and Apar Gupta, PUCL also joined in as one of the petitioners against 66A. It pleaded for the “suspension of Section 66A of the Act and conclusion of all proceedings thereunder”.
Founder of MediaNama portal that covers digital business in India, Nikhil’s Twitter timeline served as a great source for all updates pertaining to the case. He reported on the case and drummed up a lot of online support in favour of squashing Section 66A.
Centre for Communication Governance (CCG), National Law University, Delhi & Centre For Internet and Society (CIS), Bangalore
Advocacy against Section 66A has also been assisted by the efforts of groups such as CCG, a research centre within National Law University, and CIS, a non-profit organisation that works on policy issues related to the digital world.
CCG had drafted a submission to the law commission explaining the need to repeal Section 66A entirely. Along with this, the research centre, headed by Chinmayi Arun, has also launched the Digital Frontiers Project which broadly aims to shape policy regarding freedom of speech on the internet. Sarvjeet Singh, a CCG fellow, was present at all court hearings and provided the advocates with help and research.
Similarly, CIS has also contributed greatly to policy research and advocacy concerning the IT Act. Pranesh Prakash, CIS’ Policy Director, has written at length about the issue as well as contributed to the advocacy efforts against 66A.
Aseem Trivedi & Alok Dixit (Save Your Voice)
A political cartoonist and a journalist respectively, Trivedi and Dixit are co-founders of Save Your Voice (SYV), a movement against internet censorship that specifically targets the IT Act, 2000. Under the banner of SYV, they have carried out hunger strikes and even an Occupy India movement aimed at fighting internet censorship. Incidentally, the same year they began SYV, Trivedi became a victim of the IT Act, 2000, when he was charged under Section 66A for the cartoons he had put on his then website.
A Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Rajeev has long been a vocal opponent of the IT Act, 2000. In 2012 he moved a resolution for the amendment of Section 66A and also moved for the annulment of the problematic Intermediary Guidelines earlier the same year.
Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda
Biju Janata Dal Member of Parliament Jay Panda moved a private Member’s Bill to amend Section 66A, echoing the sentiments of other crusaders against Internet censorship by taking objection to, as he called it, “the wide scope for misinterpretation and abuse”.
An Independent Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Bangalore, in 2013 he filed a writ petition challenging the government on Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 as well as sections of the IT Rules, 2011. He has also been a vocal critic of internet censorship in Rajya Sabha debates.
Raman Chima, a public policy expert and lawyer, also deserves an honourable mention for his efforts in aiding the anti-66A advocacy efforts across the board.
Feel free to troll us in case we forgot any names, it is your right after all. Everyone who fought to get us to this point deserves a standing ovation.