Higher Court Stays All HC Proceedings Challenging Validity of IT Rules | Latest India News

The Supreme Court on Monday passed a blanket order suspending all further proceedings in the high courts, challenging the validity of the 2021 Information Technology Rules (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Code of Ethics).

The order was issued after the Center informed the High Court that despite the latter’s stay on March 23, last year against ongoing proceedings in six cases in four High Courts (HC) – Allahabad , Calcutta, Punjab & Haryana and Madhya Pradesh – several other HCs proceeded to the hearing on these rules, with some high courts issuing orders suspending the application of these rules.

On Monday, the Center presented a list of 15 such cases, for which a stay order would be required if the High Court were to ultimately rule on the validity of these digital media rules, information portals and Internet users. edge platforms (OTT).

Petitions filed by individuals and news organizations such as Press Trust of India, Foundation for Independent Journalism (publisher of The Wire), Quint Digital Media, Pravada Media Foundation, Live Law Media Private Limited, Digital News Publishers Association, among others , were pending in the High Courts of Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa.

The bench of judges AM Khanwilkar and AS Oka notified relevant news outlets of a transfer request filed by the Center and listed the issues to be heard on May 19. respective cases or to be filed hereafter until the next court date involving the challenge to the 2021 Computer Rules or the Cable Television Amendment Rules that are the subject of proceedings in this court.

The SC realized that with this batch of petitions, a group of petitions challenging hate speech and hate crime needed to be separated. The higher court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to prepare a list separating issues challenging computer rules, cable TV rules, petitions asking for a regulatory regime against OTTs and digital websites filed before the arrival of these rules, and finally, petitions asking for action by States and Center against cases of hate speech and hate crimes.

For hate speech issues, the bench led the petition filed jointly by a former Patna High Court judge Anjana Prakash and a journalist Qurban Ali demanding action against the organizers of the Dharam Sansad held at several locations including Haridwar ( Uttarakhand), Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, coming May 19. The bench made it clear that the purpose of separating the cases was to have an effective hearing on the two issues separately.

Even in staying the proceedings in the HCs in the challenge to the IT rules, the bench said: “We are only staying the proceedings in the high courts. We will not touch the provisional orders which are adopted there. This came as a relief to some of the media organizations that had been shielded from enforcement action under the rules.

The 2021 IT rules were introduced in February last year. The new rules applied to digital news media platforms, social media intermediaries and OTT platforms, placing all digital media officials under a three-tier oversight mechanism. This included a grievance officer to deal with complaints of removal of indecent content within 24 hours of a complaint. The remaining two levels of the oversight system consisted of an expert self-regulatory body headed by a former judge and an inter-ministerial committee headed by a senior official from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Petitions presented to the various HCs claimed that the rules “restrict and restrict” freedom of the press in India and that the conditions imposed under the Digital Media Code of Ethics and Guidelines were onerous and beyond the scope of the Information Technology Act 2000. For example, the use of vague words such as “good taste” and “decency” in the code of ethics, according to many petitioners, gave the state “pervasive control over published content.”

However, the Center told the High Court that the rules were intended to provide prompt redress for complaints to enable the removal of harmful content, personally intimate photos or videos of individuals within 24 hours. The rules also require media officials to cooperate with government and investigative agencies for the purposes of verifying identity, detecting and preventing crimes, and investigating or prosecuting offences.

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