These findings were published by IFF, in collaboration with Civic Data Lab (CDL), and have been presented through a website zombietracker.in. The website has details of the total cases registered, pending cases and those disposed by the courts in 11 states of the country. The highest number of pending cases under 66A comes from Maharashtra (320), followed by Uttar Pradesh (131) and Jharkhand (118).
“We plan to widen our research and include data from other states in the website soon,” said CDL member Abhinav Sekhri. According to Sekhri, the data for the website was sourced from district courts
According to the tracker, 1,988 cases were registered under section 66A of the IT Act across 11 states. Out of this, 1,189 were disposed and there were 236 cases with judgments. A section of the website also shows that 1,307 cases were registered after the Supreme Court declared section 66A as unconstitutional, and out of this 570 cases are still pending before several courts
Section 66A, often described as an impediment to free speech, was enacted into the statute through an amendment in 2008. It penalised the sending of “offensive messages” online, but failed to define offensive, which led to its wide misuse. The section was deemed unconstitutional by the SC in 2015, but it is still used by police to book people.
Zakir Ali Tyagi was booked under section 66A in 2017 for criticizing the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Yogi Adityanath. “I was fortunate that the police did not mistreat me in any way. But I am still having to defend myself in the courts and bear legal expenses,” said Tyagi at the launch of the tracker.