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Bombay HC stays provisions of IT Rules, 2021

The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni however refused to stay the rules regarding constitution of an inter-departmental committee as an oversight mechanism over digital media (Photo: Getty Images)Premium
The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni however refused to stay the rules regarding constitution of an inter-departmental committee as an oversight mechanism over digital media (Photo: Getty Images)

  • The High Court observed that the said provisions infringe the fundamental right to freedom of speech and also go against the substantive provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2002.

The Bombay High Court on Saturday stayed some clauses of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, including those that require digital news media and online publishers to adhere to a Code of Ethics brought out by the government this February, according to a report by legal website Live Law. The High Court observed that the said provisions infringe the fundamental right to freedom of speech and also go against the substantive provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2002.

“The rule is not stayed in its entirety", the report quotes Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta as saying while pronouncing the order. This means that the rule which says that a publisher will be liable for consequential action for violating any other law in force - is in operation while others remain stayed.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni however refused to stay the rules regarding constitution of an inter-departmental committee as an oversight mechanism over digital media, opining that since the same had not been formed, there was no ‘immediate urgency.’ The Court, however, has allowed the petitioners to raise grievances as and when the committee comes into force, said Live Law in its report.

The other rule that remains in force as of now relates to the power of the Centre to block access to content, which the bench noted was similar to parts of the 2009 Intermediary Rules which the petitioners had made no case against.

This February, the ministry of information and broadcasting had notified the IT Rules, 2021 that came in the wake of controversies over shows such as Tandav and Mirzapur across OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms. While video-on-demand services and filmmakers had immediately lamented the loss of creative freedom, digital news sites had moved a petition in the Delhi high court challenging government rules that defined them as intermediaries along with social media and gave the executive the sanction to block or regulate their content.

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