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'We'll Go Ahead' : Madras High Court Says It Will Hear Challenge To IT Rules Despite Centre's Transfer Plea In Supreme Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
14 July 2021 9:08 AM GMT
Well Go Ahead : Madras High Court Says It Will Hear Challenge To IT Rules Despite Centres Transfer Plea In Supreme Court
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"Merely because you filed a transfer application, does that mean that proceedings before the High Court have stayed? We will go ahead with the matter. The Supreme Court will have the benefit of the opinion of the High Court", bench orally said.

The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Union Government to file a counter-affidavit on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, notified by the Centre on February 25.A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed...

The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Union Government to file a counter-affidavit on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, notified by the Centre on February 25.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed that counter-affidavit be filed by the Union Government within 2 weeks.

This order comes after Union submitted before the Court that it has filed a transfer plea to get all the similarly paced matters pending before the different High Courts transferred before the Supreme Court.

To this, Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee asked the Union:

"Merely because you filed a transfer application, does that mean that proceedings before the High Court have stayed? Proceedings have not been stayed. The union should file a counter affidavit within a fortnight, and the matter to appear after 3 weeks. Since there is no stay on the proceedings, we will go ahead with the matter. The Supreme Court will have the benefit of the opinion of the High Court."

It may be noted that the Supreme Court last week posted to July 16 the petition filed by the Central Government seeking to transfer to the top court petitions filed in High Courts of Delhi and Kerala challenging the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna tagged the transfer petition with the Special Leave Petition Justice for Rights Foundation vs Union of India and posted it before the appropriate bench on July 16.

The pleas before the High Court

Last month, the Madras High Court had issued a notice on a writ petition filed by acclaimed Carnatic vocalist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee TM Krishna who has challenged the rule claiming that they impose "arbitrary, vague, disproportionate and unreasonable" restrictions on digital news media and social media intermediaries.

Read more about it here: 'IT Rules Offend My Rights As An Artist & Cultural Commentator': Musician TM Krishna Moves Madras High Court

The Madras High Court last month also issued a notice in a plea filed by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) as well as journalist Mukund Padmanabhan, challenging the constitutionality of the IT, and seeking a declaration of the same as "ultra vires, void and violative of Articles 14, Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India".

Read more about it here: 'Legacy Media Houses Wrongfully Classified As Digital Media': DNPA Moves Madras High Court Against IT Rules

On June 23, the Madras High Court had tagged the above-mentioned matter with the writ petition filed by acclaimed Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna. The Court had further granted liberty to the Petitioners to approach the High Court in case any coercive action was taken against them under Rules 12, 14, and 16 of the 2021 IT Rules.

In March, online news media 'The Wire' approached the Delhi High Court, followed by 'The Quint'. The Kerala High Court has granted interim protection from coercive action under Part III of the Rules to 'LiveLaw' in a petition filed by it against the Rules. Kannada news portal 'Pratidhwani' has approached the Karnataka High Court against the Rules.

Recently, WhatsApp moved the Delhi High Court challenging the 'traceability clause' under Part II of the Rules. Later, Google also approached the Delhi High Court against the Rules.

Last week, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Central Government on a plea moved by Press Trust Of India (PTI), challenging the constitutional validity of Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

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