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IT Rules : Supreme Court Posts Centre's Plea To Transfer Petitions Filed By 'The Wire', 'The Quint' & 'LiveLaw' On July 16

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
9 July 2021 8:30 AM GMT
IT Rules : Supreme Court Posts Centres Plea To Transfer Petitions Filed By The Wire, The Quint & LiveLaw On July 16
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The Supreme Court on Friday 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...

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The Supreme Court on Friday 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.

Although Solicitor General of India Mr Tushar Mehta sought for a stay of the proceedings in High Courts, the bench said that it will not pass any order today except tagging the transfer petition with the said special leave petition.

"We are not saying anything. We are just tagging and listing before appropriate bench on July 16", the bench said.

The bench said that it does not want to express anything on these submissions and tagged the transfer petition with the SLP and posted it to July 16. It said that the arguments can be raised before the bench which is dealing with the SLP.

The transfer petition filed by the Centre under Article 139A of the Constitution with respect to the following cases :

1. Foundation for Independent Journalism and others vs Union of India (Delhi High Court) - petition filed by the trust running the news portal "The Wire",  M K Venu (Chief Editor, The Wire) and Dhanya Rajendran (Founder and Editor-in-Chief 'The NewsMinute').

2. LiveLaw Media Private Ltd and others vs Union of India (Kerala High Court) - petition filed by LiveLaw, its co-founder and Chief Editor MA Rashid and Managing Editor Manu Sebastian.

3. Quint Digital Media and others vs Union of India (Delhi High Court) - petition filed by newsportal 'The Quint',  and its Director and co-founder 'The Quint'.

4.  Sanjay Kumar Singh vs Union of India (Delhi High Court).

Significantly, the Kerala High Court today passed an interim order in favour of News Broadcasters Association in its petition filed challenging the new IT Rules. Justice PB Suresh Kumar, taking note of an earlier order passed in LiveLaw's case,  ordered that no coercive action be taken against NBA under the IT Rules.

In the transfer petition, the Centre states that the Supreme Court is already dealing with the issue of regulation of Over The Top(OTT) media services in the case Justice for Rights Foundation vs Union of India.  Referring to Order XL Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules and Article 139A(1) of the Constitution, it is stated that application for transfer can be made for "similar matters pending before various High Courts, wherein similar questions of law are involved and that such questions of law are of substantial public importance".

If the High Courts pass any orders in variance with the directions passed by the Supreme Court in the matter, it will create "confusion and administrative issues" across the entire country.

"Further, if such a petition is decided independently, the same may result in a likelihood of conflict between the decisions of the Hon'ble High Court and this Hon'ble Court", the petition says, seeking transfer of the matters from High Courts to Supreme Court "in the interests of justice".

The petitions filed by 'The Wire' and 'The Quint' challenge Part III of the IT Rules -which seeks regulate digital media -as violative of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and also as ultra vires the Information Technology Act. They argue that the rules seek to create an 'executive oversight mechanism' over digital media content, which results in undermining the independence of media.  It is also argued that the Information Technology Act 2000 does not empower the Central Government to frame rules to regulate digital media. The Delhi High Court turned down a prayer made by them for interim protection from coercive action under the Rules.

The petition filed by LiveLaw and others in Kerala High Court challenges the Rules entirely as imposing "arbitrary, vague,disproportionate and unreasonable" restrictions on digital news media and social media intermediaries. On March 10, a single bench of the High Court passed an interim order in favour of LiveLaw, protecting it from coercive action for non-compliance of Part III of the Rules.

Several other petitions have also been filed in many other High Courts subsequently challenging the IT Rules. Vocalist TM Krishna and Digital News Media Publishers Association have approached the Madras High Court. Journalist Nikhil Wagle and legal portal 'The Leaflet' have approached the Bombay High Court. Also, Kannada news portal 'Prathidwani' has filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court.

Two days back, news agency Press Trust of India(PTI) moved the Delhi High Court.

WhatsApp has  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.





 


 


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