Bombay High Court Stays Provisions Of New It Rules 2021 Mandating Code Of Ethics By Digital Media

Bombay High Court Stays Provisions Of New It Rules 2021 Mandating Code Of Ethics By Digital Media

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News publishers challenging the new IT rules win in the High Court, a setback to the central government

Bombay High Court has stayed the provisions of the new IT rules. (file photo)


The Bombay High Court has stayed the provisions of the government’s new information technology rules for news publishers related to the code of conduct. News publishers had challenged the rules in several courts of the country. News agency PTI reported that the High Court on Saturday stayed clauses 9(1) and 9(3) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 for digital media related to the compliance of the code of conduct. The High Court observed that “prima facie” has been found that these sub-sections violated the constitutional right of the petitioners to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19. The provisions of section 9 are also outside the purview of the principal law (Information Technology Act 2000).

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The High Court has given this order on petitions filed by legal news portal The Leaflet and journalist Nikhil Wagle. The petition had challenged several provisions of the new IT rules, claiming that these were unclear. In a setback to the government last month, the Supreme Court refused to stop various courts challenging the new rules introduced by the Center in February.

News publishers allege that the new rules violate basic constitutional rights, including freedom of the press. Also, it has been designed to give the government a tighter grip on online news content. The IT rules were largely defended by former Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and former Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar. Both the leaders were dropped from the cabinet in a drastic change of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own council of ministers last month.

The government says the new IT rules are necessary to regulate content on social media and ensure that all online news is compliant with the law. The new requirements also include that companies like WhatsApp break end-to-end encryption to identify the first sender (or the first to forward the message) of any content that poses a threat to national security.

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The IT rules also controversially state that a committee of ministers will have final veto powers on material deemed problematic to law and order or security and can order its removal. News publishers have argued that existing laws already provide for criminal prosecution if they break the rules for posting child pornography, or playing content that incites communal hatred or violence.

The IT rules were challenged in the Kerala High Court by the News Broadcasters Association, which includes some of the country’s biggest news networks, last month. The court gave a provisional order in favor of the publishers and said that no punitive action will be taken against them if they do not comply with the IT rules now. Other news industry and media associations have filed similar appeals in other courts.


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