8 March 2021 5:16 PM GMT
Online news portal 'The Wire' has approached the Delhi High Court challenging the new rules made by the Central Government under the Information Technology Act to regulate internet intermediaries, Over-The-Top(OTT) platforms and digital news media.A division bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel will consider the petition tomorrow.The petition has been filed by 'Foundation for...
Online news portal 'The Wire' has approached the Delhi High Court challenging the new rules made by the Central Government under the Information Technology Act to regulate internet intermediaries, Over-The-Top(OTT) platforms and digital news media.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel will consider the petition tomorrow.
The petition has been filed by 'Foundation for Independent Journalist', a trust which owns 'The Wire', Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'The News Minute' Dhanya Rajendran and Founding Editor of 'The Wire' MK Venu .
The impugned rules, titled the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were notified by the Centre on February 25.
The Rules prescribing a Code of Ethics and a three-tier content regulation mechanism have been framed under the decades old Information Technology Act, 2000.
Several journalists, lawyers and activists have decried the rules as an attempt to muzzle freedom of press by laying the ground for tightening executive control over digital media.
The Editors Guild of India has demanded the repeal of these rules.
When the Rules were notified, Sidharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of 'The Wire', told LiveLaw :
"On a quick reading, the burdens being placed on publishers of digital news go beyond the basic restrictions on freedom of speech (and thus freedom of the press) envisaged by Article 19 and are therefore ultra vires the Constitution. Digital publishers are already subject to Article 19 restrictions and the numerous defamation cases filed against them, not to speak of various criminal cases, are proof of how existing laws are being used (or abused) in order to regulate digital media. The Indian constitution does not grant the executive the power to sit in judgment over the suitability of content published by the media. Granting an inter-ministerial committee of bureaucrats the power to pass judgment on what can and can't be published or to decide on whether a media platform has responded adequately to grievances raised by members of the public has no basis in law and will amount to killing freedom of the press in India. Just to reiterate, existing laws already define the reasonable restrictions on press freedom in India and any reader or government official with a grievance is free to seek a legal remedy provided it falls within the four walls of the "reasonable restrictions" defined by the constitution and 70 years of Indian jurisprudence on them. The media cannot be compelled to address "grievances" that go beyond that Lakshman Rekha".
On the other hand, the Union Minister of IT and Law, Ravi Shankar Prasad, discarded the criticism against the Rules as baseless, and said that the Rules were necessary to protect the citizens. The Minister also said that the Rules were framed after consultations with stakeholders.
Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare has pooh-poohed fears about the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021: "Some sceptics have described these rules as curbing freedom of expression and have even termed them as dictatorial. They seem to be looking for a black cat in a dark room where none exists."