Challenge Admitted against IT Rules, 2021 by Madras High Court: Plea moved by Digital News Publishers Association

Team SoOLEGAL 24 Jun 2021 11:14am

Challenge Admitted against IT Rules, 2021 by Madras High Court: Plea moved by Digital News Publishers Association

The Madras High Court issued notice in a writ petition filed by the Digital News Publishers Association, which includes thirteen media outlets and journalist Mukund Padmanabhan, challenging the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, filed by the Digital News Publishers Association. Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice SenthilkumarRamamoorthy has attached a pending case filed by Carnatic singer TM Krishna, which was admitted earlier.

The petitioners have also been granted the right to seek interim relief from the Court if any coercive action is taken against them using Rules 12, 14 and 16 of the IT Rules, 2021. Senior Advocate PS Raman appearing for the petitioners, urged for the court for the interim relief, application of Rules 12, 14 and 16 against the petitioners. The petitioners' statement that there is adequate foundation for their fear that coercive and arm-twisting measures may be conducted under such provisions was noted by the Court.

 TM Krishna's challenge to the IT Rules, 2021, focused on the right to privacy, according to Raman. In this case, however, the media was concerned about how Rules 12, 14, and 16 of the IT Rules 2021 might affect them, he told the Court.A former Supreme Court or High Court Judge will lead the self-regulatory body for media outlets established by the Rules. However, Raman pointed out that the inter-departmental committee established under Rule 14 to hear appeals from the self-regulatory body's rulings is completely made up of bureaucrats. Rule 16 (Blocking of information in an emergency), which Senior Advocate Raman noted out was a "Henry the VIIIth," "omnibus" clause, was also a source of concern.

The order stated, “There will be no omnibus order issued at this time because no adverse action has been taken against the petitioners.However, if such provisions are used against the petitioners, petitioners will have the option of seeking interim remedy.”

The Petitioner’s contention include:

o   The Information Technology Rules of 2021 attempt to control the behavior of businesses that are not even covered by the Information Technology Act of 2000.

o   The Information Technology Rules of 2021 are in violation of the Information Technology Act, under which they were enacted.

o   The IT Rules, 2021 attempt to stifle freedom of speech and expression, as well as freedom of the press, by restricting material on the basis of vague and subjective reasons that have already been overturned by the Supreme Court.

o   The IT Rules, 2021, aim to bring in a new era of monitoring and terror, culminating in self-censorship and the curtailment of basic liberties guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

o   It is argued that the IT Rules impose arbitrary, unreasonable, excessive, and unfair scrutiny into the actions of these media entities. The authority conferred on the government by the IT Rules is arbitrary, unfettered, and in breach of Article 14 of the Constitution, according to the petition.

o   Part III of the Code of Ethics aims to control material based on undefined, imprecise, and subjective standards such as "half-truths," "good taste," "decency," and other terms that leave the authorities open to abuse. The Supreme Court had already thrown down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 due to the usage of such abstract words, according to the argument.

o   Part II of the Information Technology Rules of 2021, is anti-ethical to basic rights. These laws provide private intermediaries an undue amount of control over how the country's discourse is formed. Rules 3(2)(b), 2(1)(d), 4 (2), and 4(4) are specifically mentioned.

o   The 2021 IT Rules were approved without consulting the legacy media companies, who are among the most important stakeholders.

o   Objections were also lodged against Rules 18 (3) and 19 (3), which mandate the release of a monthly compliance report, among other things. The petitioners argued that these restrictions would stifle free expression and, as a result, would be in violation of Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

The petitioners want the High Court to declare the IT Rules of 2021 to be in violation of Articles 14 and 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution.

Tagged: IT Rules   Madras High Court   Digital News Publishers Association   Digital News   journalist Mukund Padmanabhan   Information Technology act   Supreme Court   high court   judges   Senior Advocate Raman   Information Technology Rules   Indian Constitution  
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