Puneet Varma (Editor)

Mouthshut.com v. Union of India

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Court  Supreme Court of India
Mouthshut.com v. Union of India
Full case name  MouthShut.com and Faisal Farooqui , v. Union of India and Ors.

MouthShut.com v. Union of India was a case- a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India filed by the consumer review social media company Mouthshut.com to protect freedom of speech and expression on Internet. It argued against Sec. 66A and prayed for modifications or nullification of IT Rules of the Information Technology Act of India. The Supreme Court, in a historic judgement on March 24, 2015, ruled in favor of the petitioner(s) and repealed Sec. 66A, declaring it as unconstitutional and ordered reading down of various other sections of the IT Act. As a result, Internet users are free to post anything online and publishers cannot be forced to take down content without a court order. This applies to all user-generated content online

Contents

Significance

The lawsuit and its proceedings were monitored by online Intermediaries, ISPs, telecom service providers and social media companies in India as well as overseas. According to the Center for Communication Governance, "this is one of the case under which India’s Supreme Court will define contours of free speech online." The case was clubbed along with a petition filed by Shreya Singhal a law student, challenging India's IT Act's section 66A. Because the hearing for all the petitions challenging the IT Act were clubbed together by a Supreme Court order, the matter is sometimes also referred as Shreya Singhal case. Before the verdict, CNN reported that "...Mouthshut.com has taken its case to the country's Supreme Court to protect what it says are the rights of Indian citizens and consumers enshrined by the Indian constitution."

Background

MouthShut.com approached India's highest court- the Supreme Court of India arguing about the draconian effect of Sec. 66A. It also prayed that India's Information Technology Rules 2011 be nullified or modified. These petitions were filed in April 2013. Writ petition was filed by MouthShut.com under Article 32 of the Constitution as the IT Rules were violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Mouthshut.com contended that people who post reviews on the website are denied their fundamental right to freedom of expression due to the provisions of Sec. 66A. Besides, it said that the IT Rules pose a significant burden forcing them to screen content and exercise on-line censorship. While a private party may allege that certain content is defamatory or infringes copyright, such determinations are usually made by judges and involve factual inquiry and careful balancing of competing interests and factors, which the petitioners are not equipped to make. The petitioners receive notices and phone calls from cyber cells and police stations asking them to delete content and provide information of users, which makes the running of their business difficult.

Writ petition

On 29 April 2013, It was argued by Senior Counsel Mr. Harish Salve for the petitioner. Upon accepting the petition, Supreme Court Justice TS Thakur and Justice Sudhansho Mukhopadhya ordered the petition requires simultaneous hearing along with 'Shreya Singhal versus Union of India' .

Later, many other civil liberty organizations, NGOs, individuals and the Internet and Mobile Association of India filed their own petitions that have been tagged along with the main petitions.

MouthShut legal team

Mouthshut.com's lead legal and general counsel is Mishi Chaudhary and her team at SFLC. They also received legal advice from and were represented by a battery of lawyers and senior counsels which included Adv. Harish Salve. Sr Counsel and Adv. Shyam Divan, Sr. Counsel. The Advocate on Record was Bina Madhavan of Lawyers Knit and Company. A two judge bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India comprising Justice J. Chelameshwar and Justice Rohinton F. Nariman heard the matter of the various clubbed petitions and delivered the final verdict on March 24, 2015.

Various other petition

  • PUCL vs. Union of India [W.P.(Crl) No. 199 of 2013]
  • Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India (WP (Cr) 167/2012)
  • Common Cause vs. Union of India [W.P.(C) No. 21 of 2013]
  • Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 196 of 2014
  • References

    Mouthshut.com v. Union of India Wikipedia


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