Shreya Singhal vs Union of India is a landmark case that has created a significant impact on the history of the Indian legal system. This case revolves around the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

Shreya Singhal Case Summary and Outcome

The Supreme Court of India invalidated Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 in its entirety.  The Petitioners argued that Section 66A was unconstitutionally vague and its intended protection against annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, or ill-will was beyond the scope of permissible restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.

The Court agreed that the prohibition against the dissemination of information using a computer resource or a communication device intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or insult did not fall within any reasonable exceptions to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. It further found that because the provision failed to define terms, such as inconvenience or annoyance, “a very large amount of protected and innocent speech” could be curtailed and hence its sweep was overly broad and vague.

Facts of the case:

In the year 2012, Mumbai police arrested two girls named Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Shrinivasan for expressing their displeasure on Facebook against the Bandh which was declared by Shiv Sena due to the death of the leader named Bal Thackrey in Mumbai. One of the girls posted a statement criticizing the bandh and the other one liked the post on social media. Due to this Mumbai police immediately took action against them under section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, 2000.

They were arrested by the Mumbai police merely for the purpose of commenting, liking, and believing that their action created hatred and annoyance in the minds of the public at large. After a few days, the girls were released but the arrest and the case attracted public protest at large further, media agencies bought into the limelight that the provision of Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has violated the right to freedom of speech and expression which was guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.


Basically, Section 66 A of IT Act,2000 prescribes the punishment for sending obnoxious texts or messages through communication services. The offence that is prescribed under Section 66A [Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc] of the IT Act,2000 comes under the nature of cognizable offences, therefore police officers can arrest the person and start an investigation without any warrant.

Because of this, throughout the country, many innocent people who were publishing any objecting political view or opinion which was termed as ‘obnoxious content’ or ‘hatred’ according to the government were arrested under section 66 A of the IT Act, 2000. After this incident and protests, in the year 2013, the Union Government of India issued a notice stating that no individual should be arrested without the prior knowledge of the superior officer, who is not below the rank of Inspector General of police.


Therefore, around ten writ petitions were filed by people from across the country by challenging the validity of section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution before the Supreme Court of India. The filed petitions were clubbed by the Supreme Court of India into a single Public Interest Litigation. Hence, the case was named as the Shreya Singhal v. Union of India. In this case, firstly Supreme Court of India issued an interim measure by prohibiting any arrest pursuant to Section 66A unless such arrest is authorized by senior police officers. Further, the Honourable Supreme Court in the case addressed the constitutional validity of the provisions which were challenged.


According to the Honourable Supreme Court, “mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart” of Article 19(1)(a). The court further observed that it is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that Article 19(2) kicks in. [7]

  1. The two-judge bench of J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in its entirety because it is violative of provisions of Article 19 (1) (a), and not saved under Article 19(2).
  2. Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Information Technology (Procedure & Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.
  3. Further, the Honourable Supreme Court declared Section 79 as constitutionally valid but subject to Section 79(3)(b) being read down to mean that an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that unlawful acts relatable to Article 19(2) are going to be committed then fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to such material.
  4. Similarly, the Information Technology “Intermediary Guidelines” Rules, 2011 has been held valid subjecting to Rule 3 sub-rule (4).
  5. Section 118 (d) of the Kerala Police Act, was also struck down by the court on the grounds that it is violative of the provisions of Article 19 (1) (a) and not abiding the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Further, it has been held that this Act will fall within Entry 1 List III which speaks of criminal law and would thus be within the competence of the State Legislature in any case


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