On Monday (June 28), a vacation Bench of Delhi High Court refused to grant interim relief to Quint from action by the Centre over non-compliance to the newly amended IT Rules, 2021.
As per reports, the application was heard by a 2-Judge Bench of Justices Subramonium Prasad and C Hari Shankar. The Court noted that the matter was pending before the regular division bench and that it had earlier not granted any stay on the Centre’s notice. The Delhi High Court however re-notified Quint’s application before the regular division bench.
The vacation bench ruled, “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 C Hari Shankar remarked, “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.”
News-media portals move Court against IT Rules
It must be mentioned that petitions were earlier filed by The Quint, The Wire, The News Minute, and the Foundation for Independent Journalism wherein they challenged the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. They claimed that the parent IT Act did not cover digital media and that the executive rules to regulate online media portals were invalid.
The petition read, “The regulations are frontally offensive to Article 19(1)(a) and Article 14. A restriction on the Fundamental Right to free speech and expression 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.”
Government announced new guidelines for social media and OTT platforms
Amid the growing demand for controlling content on OTT platforms and social media, the government of India came up with guidelines for both of them in February this year. On February 25, the Union government announced its new guidelines for digital news organisations, social media platforms, and OTT platforms. According to the guidelines, the social media platforms will have to inform the users that they can’t publish content belonging to others, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy, insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, libellous, racially or ethnically objectionable.