Shreya Singhal v Union of India  AIR 2015 SC 1523
Dharti Shukla

Shreya Singhal v Union of India AIR 2015 SC 1523

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Shreya Singhal v Union of India

AIR 2015 SC 1523



Freedom of speech and expression is the soul of a democratic country. It is the freedom to freely express one's opinion through speech, writing, print, gesture or any other means of communication.

Shreya Singhal v Union of India is a landmark case that has been blocked under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act for violating freedom of speech and expression.

This case confirms the fact that Art. 19 is of great importance in India and expands the scope of a person's freedom of speech and expression by ensuring that this freedom can only be restricted on the basis of Art. 19(2) of the Constitution .


Brief facts:

In 2012, two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, were arrested by the Mumbai police. The arrest came for expressing his displeasure with a gang summoned by members of the Shiv Sena people in Maharashtra following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bala Thackery. The signers allegedly engaged in posting their comments on Facebook and liking the comment at the same time, sparking widespread social outcry. The applicants, guided by the public interest, lodged a complaint under Article 32 of the Constitution, which claims that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 violates the individual's right to freedom of expression and freedom of expression.



1) If the Sections 66-A, 69-A and 79 of the IT Act are constitutional?


2) If the Section 66A of the IT Act violates the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression?


Arguments Given

Petitioner's argument:

  • Section -66A of the IT Act 2000 breaches what is set out in Article 19 sec 1 bed. a) Constitution of India. The petitioners argued that causing trouble, annoyance, etc. does not fall within the reasonable limits of Article 19 sec. 2 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Section 66A is inherently vague, and this section has created a handicap by not properly defining the terminology used in this section and leaving the door open to interpretation of this section to suit law enforcement's desires. Therefore, the constraint is absent and not provided in this section.
  • The stated Sec. violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution as there are “no understandable differences” as to why Article 66A focuses on appropriate methods of communication. The result is self-discrimination, which also violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • The petitioners also argued that the section gives the authorities arbitrary powers to interpret it.


Respondent's argument:

Respondents raised objections to the possibility of granting the writ petition:

  • It is for the legislature to respond to the requests of the people, and the court can intervene only in violation of Chapter III of the Constitution. The defendant deduced the existence of a constitutional presumption of the provision in question.
  • It has been argued that the risk of abuse of a paragraph cannot be a possible reason for invalidating a paragraph.
  • Vagueness is no reason to regard a statue as unconditional if the statue itself is not arbitrary.


Judgment of the case

Bench: Justice J. Ceramicware and Justice Robinson Fali Nariman.

The Supreme Court accepted the applicant's arguments  and ruled that Sec. 66A has a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression, and the wording used therein does not constitute grounds for adequately restricting that freedom. The vague language of Sec.66A can create arbitrariness, thereby causing harm and injustice to society, so it must be upheld. 

The Court has also distinguished between “hate speech and freedom of expression”. Hate speech is subjective. No innocent comment can be classified as hate speech.The court referred to  three basic concepts  in the concept of freedom of expression: discussion, call for defense. The restriction of liberty applies when the discussion or defense of a particular subject reaches the limit of incitement to commit a crime. 

However, the  court disagreed with the appellant's claim that there was no intelligible difference between a written medium  and a live chat versus an internet chat. This is an understandable difference, because unlike other media, the Internet offers a platform to express one's opinion for a small fee, sometimes even free of charge. With the help of  the Internet, information reaches billions in a matter of  seconds.

Therefore, the appellant's motion is to challenge the art. 14 of the Constitution is missing. 

Possibility of applying the Doctrine of Severabilty-

The Supreme Court has applied the doctrine of separation and only 66-A, which was inconsistent with Chapter III of the Constitution, was declared invalid. Only that paragraph was declared unconstitutional, the rest of the law was declared constitutional. 




The court found that the terms in 66A are totally open-ended and undefined, and that they are not protected by Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. The court found that Section 66A had no proximate relationship or relevance to producing public disorder or incitement to commit a crime, and hence it was struck down. The court took the position that the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression must be protected, and that legislation cannot infringe on this right by invoking the protection of Article-19(2) of the Constitution. In addition, the court used the severability rule to strike down just the elements that were ambiguous and arbitrary. The entire law does not have to be declared null and void.



The two-judge  Supreme Court has issued guidelines and taken a positive step to protect freedom of speech and expression in the  modern era, when millions of people use the Internet as a means of communication to express their opinions. By declaring Section 66A unconstitutional, the court made it clear that arguing and defending the matter is important in order to uncover the  truth and give people an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.

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