New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the new Information Technology Rules to regulate digital media.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel after issuing notice to the Centre on the plea moved by Indian news and opinion website, The Wire, posted the matter to be heard on April 16.
The plea, filed by Foundation for Independent Journalist, a trust which owns The Wire and its Founding Editor, MK Venu, and Editor-in-Chief of The News Minute, Dhanya Rajendran, argued that the Act does not recognise newspaper and news agencies at all.
Senior counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the petitioners, argued that the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, is “palpably illegal” in seeking to control and regulate digital news media when the parent statute nowhere provides for such a remit.
“Powers under Section 69A of the Act can only be invoked when the grounds therein are triggered and that new grounds such as defamation, innuendos, etc are not part of it,” she said.
The petition also contended that the Rules provide for an oversight mechanism, including the setting up of an Inter-Departmental Committee which has the power to hear grievances regarding compliance with the said Code of Ethics, as well as the power to recommend to the Ministry of Inormation & Broadcasting, draconian measures such as ordering the deletion, modification of content, or blocking the same.
According to the government, new regulations are required to keep social media and other companies responsible for “misuse and violence”. The rules mandate platforms with more than 50 lakh users to set up stronger grievance redressal mechanisms and appoint executives to cooperate with law enforcement in India.