Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

IT Rules: Delhi High Court Refuses Interim Relief To The Wire And The Quint

Shreya Agarwal
7 July 2021 6:43 AM GMT
IT Rules: Delhi High Court Refuses Interim Relief To The Wire And The Quint
x

In a hearing before the Delhi High Court challenging the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) digital media houses The Quint and The Wire today told the court that submitting information as required by the Central government in compliance with the rules, "is not a matter of voice vote."Sr. Adv. Nitya Ramakrishnan for...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

In a hearing before the Delhi High Court challenging the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) digital media houses The Quint and The Wire today told the court that submitting information as required by the Central government in compliance with the rules, "is not a matter of voice vote."

Sr. Adv. Nitya Ramakrishnan for the media houses argued with this against Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma's submission that nearly 1200 digital media houses including independent publishers had already complied with the Rules and submitted details as required.

Ramakrishnan said, "We have challenged the Rules, they haven't. What they're trying to do is in the face of a Supreme Court order which says government control of the media is unacceptable."

She however, added, that whatever details or information was being sought under the Rules was already in the public domain.

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was also hearing the media houses on their application for interim protection for non-compliance with the Rules.

Noting that the opposite parties were seeking time to file their counter affidavits, the court granted the same and posted the matter for hearing on Aug 20. The court refused to grant them any protection in the interim.

Ramakrishnan stated that she was ready to argue both, the interim and main applications, and that it was the government that had not filed its reply, so they should be granted protection from adverse or coercive steps. However, the court refused to grant the same.

They had earlier sought stay on the implementation of the Rules and interim protection from coercive action before the vacation bench as well.

The vacation division bench of Justices C Hari Shankar and Subramonium Prasad had said it was prima facie not inclined to grant any interim relief on applications by The Quint and The Wire for action against them for non-compliance with the (IT Rules, 2021).

The court had said that as the matter was pending before the regular division bench and no stay was granted there, it would renotify their application for interim relief for hearing by the roster bench.

The court had also issued notice on digital fact-checking platform AltNews' challenge to the IT Rules, 2021, accepting their counsel, Sr. Adv. Nitya Ramakrishnan's submission that the plea was on parity with The Quint and The Wire's challenges on which the division roster bench had issued notice already.

Refusing any stay on implementation of the notification regarding the IT Rules, the bench had said, "The matter is pending before the regular division bench, no stay was granted. They are only implementing the notification on which there is no stay. There is no question of interim relief."

Justice Shankar continued, "Let me make it very clear. All they are doing is implementing the notification. You have only made out the case that they should not have taken coercive action. It is not your case that the implementation is against the Rules."

Before this, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani had recused himself from hearing the applications and re-notifed the matter for the roster bench.

In May, the Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh had adjourned the hearing of the petitions to Aug 4 on grounds of non-urgency.

Counsel for one of the individual petitioners in the batch of pleas had contended that the matter was urgent due as it concerned the infringement of fundamental rights. However, the bench expressed that the matter was not urgent and had adjourned the hearing.

This was soon after the Government of India wrote to various social media platforms enquiring about compliance with the abovementioned rules.

The pleas challenge the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to the extent it regulates the publishers of news and current affairs content.

Ritu Kapur, the Director and Co-Founder of 'The Quint', alongwith the 'Foundation for Independent Journalism'(a non-profit company which owns 'The Wire'), Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'The News Minute' Dhanya Rajendran and Founding Editor of 'The Wire' MK Venu are the petitioners in the other case.

Though Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan had earlier sought for interim protection for the petitioners from coercive steps under Part 3 of the Rules(which deals with digital media), the bench said that it will not grant it as of now. However the bench had expressed that in case any coercive steps are taken, the petitioners will be at liberty to seek an urgent hearing.

The petition, filed through Advocates Prasanna S and Vinoothna Vinjam, contends that the new Rules are ultra vires the Constitution of India as well as the Information Technology Act to the extent they impose unreasonable and arbitrary restrictions on digital news media.

It is highlighted that the parent statute of the Rules, the IT Act, does not deal with digital media, and hence, the executive rules made under the said Act to regulate online news publishers are invalid.

The petition states that the Rules amount to an "overreach" as they incorporate the vague and arbitrary norms under the Press Council Act and the Programme Code, that too by way of subordinate legislation, in order to vest "draconian powers and control" with the executive, contends the petition.

"The regulations are frontally offensive to Article 19(1)(a) and Article 14. A restriction on the Fundamental Right to free speech andexpression can only be to the extent strictly necessary for the stated interests in Article 19(2). Digital news portals such as the Quint, published by the Petitioners, are already subject to all the civil and criminal laws enacted for those interests. Therefore, the IT Rules, 2021 cannot be in the interest of Article 19(2). They are only meant to be a ruse for the State to enter and directly control the content of digital news portals", the plea states.

The digital messaging platform, WhatsApp, has also moved the Delhi High Court challenging the 'traceability' clause under the new IT Rules, under a different petition.

In Mar 2020 the Kerala High Court had also issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by LiveLaw challenging the new IT Rules. The High Court also passed an interim order restraining coercive action under Part 3 of the Rules against LiveLaw, its Chief Editor MA Rashid and Managing Editor Manu Sebastian.

Next Story
Share it