New Delhi: The central government, through an affidavit in the Supreme Court, has sought three months to finalize the new rules on the responsibilities of online intermediaries.
The Centre told the court that three months will be required to collate and analyse the information from stakeholders and hold an inter-ministerial consultation, before it could finalise and notify the revised rules in accordance with the law.
The affidavit will be taken up on Tuesday by a bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta.
The Centre said the matter was complex and should be dealt with adequately, as it would have a significant impact on the functioning of all stakeholders, including netizens, various government departments and ministries, social media platforms, messaging platforms, websites and mobile apps. Therefore, a conscious and bona fide decision was taken by the ministry to call for further inter-ministerial consultations so that effective, robust and comprehensive rules, covering all aspects of the matter can be framed, it added.
“The internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to democratic polity. It was felt that the extant rules need to be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries keeping in view the ever growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security," said the affidavit.
The Centre told the court that “...the minister of electronics and information technology, on 26 July 2018, while replying to a calling attention motion on the “misuse of social media platform and propagation of fake news" made a statement on the floor of the Rajya Sabha that the government will initiate a number of measures, including an amendment in the existing Intermediaries Guidelines Rules, 2011, to make intermediaries more liable towards the content that is published and transmitted on their platform," it said.
The court on 24 September had directed the Centre to file an affidavit within three weeks, apprising the apex court of a timeline on framing draft rules or guidelines for regulating social media intermediaries to prevent misuse.
On a plea by Facebook Inc., seeking transfer of cases, involving the proposed linking of Aadhaar numbers with social media accounts, which are pending before various high courts, the company contended that the cases be transferred to the apex court. Four petitions, including two in the Madras high court and one each in the Bombay high court and Madhya Pradesh high court, were filed by separate parties.
The plea said the Supreme Court should hear the petitions pending in the various high courts collectively to avoid conflicting judgments.
The Centre has also submitted that there has been an enormous increase in the use of social media over the last few years and, with lower internet tariffs, availability of smart devices and last-mile connectivity, more and more people in India are becoming part of the internet and social media platforms.
If on one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings and other unlawful activities, using the internet and social media platforms, it added.