Petition in Bombay HC challenges Information Technology Rules, 2021
Another petition has been filed in the Bombay high court (HC) challenging the recently notified Information Technology (Guidelines for intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 issued under the Information Technology (IT) Act. The petition by a digital news portal states that the IT Rules are arbitrary, illegal and contrary to the fundamental rights under article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, ultra vires to the IT Act, by unlawfully delegating judicial powers to the executive and attempting to overrule a long line of precedent established by the Supreme Court.
The petition claims that IT Rules curtail and unconstitutionally restrict the freedom of press, and hence should be set aside. Journalist Nikhil Wagle has also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on similar grounds on Friday. Both petitions are expected to come up for hearing in due course.
The online news portal which has moved the petition through its company and former journalist Ashish Khetan states, “IT Rules curtail and unconstitutionally restrict the freedom of press in India.” Elaborating the reasons, the petition states that the rules give pervasive powers of control to state over published content, over-regulation and excessive burden on press through onerous obligations that will financially and operationally drain resources and capacity.
The petition also alleges that the rules will result in usurpation of judicial powers by executive bodies that violate constitutional norms for exercise of quasi-judicial powers. It further states that the above reasons are compounded by the fact that the rules do not have the sanction of the Parliament.
Referring to the large cost of compliance burdens, the petition states that the implementation of IT Rules will cause chilling of the freedom of speech of reporters and journalists working with the petitioners. It added that while a request for a meaningful consultation was requested with stakeholders, since they did not receive a response from the authorities, the petitioners approached the HC.