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India's top court affirmed people's right to free speech in cyberspace Tuesday by striking down a provision that had called for imprisoning people who send "offensive" messages by computer or cellphone.

The provision, known as Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act, had made sending such messages a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the provision was "clearly vague" in not clarifying what should be construed as offensive. It also said the provision violates people's freedom of speech and their right to share information.

"The public's right to know is directly affected," the judges said in deeming the provision unconstitutional.

A law student who filed the challenge in 2012, Shreya Singhal, applauded the court's rejection of a provision she said was "grossly offensive to our rights, our freedom of speech and expression."

"Today the Supreme Court has upheld that, they have supported our rights," Singhal said. "I am ecstatic."

The law has been invoked in at least 10 recent cases, most often involving criticism of political leaders.

In 2012, a chemistry professor and his neighbor in Kolkata were arrested for forwarding a cartoon that made fun of West Bengal's top elected official, Mamata Banerjee.


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