Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Supreme Court stays proceedings on new IT rules in High Courts

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the further proceedings in the High Courts in the petitions challenging the new Information Technology Rules, notified by the Union last year.

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Abhay Oka passed the order while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the much criticised rules, Live Law reported.

“We direct stay of further proceedings pending before the High Courts in the respective cases or to be filed hereafter until the next date of hearing involving challenge to IT rules or cable TV amendment rules which are subject matter of proceedings in this set of cases”, read the order passed by the bench.

The judges also said that they will not interfere with any interim orders about the rules passed by the High Courts.

“We are not touching any interim orders today… we will see on May 19, 2022”, Justice Khanwilkar orally told Advocate Vrinda Bhandari, who was representing LiveLaw Media Private Ltd.

The cases will be next considerd on May 19.

In June last year, experts at United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commissioner had said in a communication sent to the Indian government that it is concerned that Indias Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in their current form, do not conform with international human rights norms.

“As noted in previous communications sent to your Excellency’s Government, we are concerned that these new rules come at a time of a global pandemic and of large-scale farmer protests in the country, where the enjoyment of the freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to receive information, and the right to privacy, is particularly important for the realization of several other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights,” read the letter which is authored by Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

According to the UN letter, India’s new IT Rules are in violation of rules laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a key international human rights treaty.

“removing content that may “mislead” and cause “any” injury to a person is excessively broad. As social media intermediaries deal with a huge amount of content, a rigorous definition of the restriction of freedom of expression is critical for them to protect speeches that are legitimate under international law, such as the expression of dissenting views. A sufficiently precise definition is essential to prevent the possibility that legitimate expressions is taken down on political or other unjustified grounds. It will ensure that the new rules do not have a chilling effect on independent media reporting,” read the letter.

Meanwhile, in response to the UN letter, the Union government told the international organisation that the IT rules are “designed to empower ordinary users of social media” and that the government had held broad consultations with civil society and other stakeholders in 2018.

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