Bombay High Court stays some providions of new IT Rules

MUMBAI: Bombay high court stays some provisions of new IT guidlines for digital media, noting that 'Dissent in a democracy dissent was vital," and noting that they prima facie violate the petitioner’s right to freedom of speech and expression, and the Information Technology (IT) Act.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni passed the interim order staying Rules 9(1) and 9(3) of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in the petitions filed by journalist Nikhil Wagle and Agij Promotion Of Nineteenonea Media Private Limited runs the legal news portal The Leaflet.

Upholding the aurguments of the petitioners, the court noted that prima facie it found the new rules are in the intrusion of petitioners' rights and goes beyond substatniove law and the IT Act. "Rule 9 (observacne and adherence to the code) apperars to against freedom of speech and we have stayed 9(1) and 9(3) of the same," the court said.    

"People would be starved of the liberty of thought and feel suffocated to exercise their right of freedom of speech and expression, if they are made to live in present times of content regulation on the internet with the Code of Ethics hanging over their head as the Sword of Damocles," the court said.

HC, however, refused to stay Rule 14 of the new IT Rules which deals with the constitution of an inter-departmental committee as an oversight mechanism over digital media, saying that that the said committee was yet to be constituted and thus there was no immediate urgency. The bench also refused to stay Rule 7, which deals with penalties for intermediaries for violating the Rules.

The court also did not grant the petitioners prayers regarding Rule 16, which deals with the power of the Centre to block access to content, saying that the said provision was similar to Rule 9 of the 2009 Intermediary Rules.


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