Regulators

SC to hear Mouthshut.com’s plea challenging IT Rules 2011

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NEW DELHI: Come 13 January and the writ petition filed by Mouthshut.com, challenging the Information Technology Rules 2011 will be up for hearing in the Supreme Court.  

The plea seeks to declare the IT Rules as violation of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantee freedom of expression. Mouthshut.com will be represented by senior counsel Harish Salve.

Mouthshut.com, which is an online community for consumer reviews has asked the Court to rescind India’s Information Technology Rules 2011 that jeopardises the freedom of expression. The appeal declares the IT Rules to be offensive under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. “We are pleading with the highest court in the land to protect the rights of Indian citizens and consumers that are granted by the Constitution of India,” said MouthShut.com founder and CEO Faisal Farooqui.

The portal has stuck to its own policy of taking down content only under legal coercion. But the IT rules state that ‘any affected person’ can simply send an email to request the removal of any content within 36 hours or they can lose their ‘safe harbour’ protection as an ‘intermediary, pay damages, legal fee and court time’. Web-based organisations need to have a difference between free expression and making feasible services.

Farooqui further added, “We have been threatened with hundreds of legal notices, cybercrime complaints and defamation cases. At other times, officers from various police stations call our office, demanding deletion of various reviews or face dire consequences under the IT rules.”

Farooqui said, “It is a privilege to be a citizen of a democracy like India, where an ordinary citizen can appeal to a powerful court. Laws are meant to ensure the well-being of the nation – its people and institutions. Despite good intentions, IT Rules fall short of doing that. This law has the potential to weaken or, worse, entirely corrode the robust protection that the constitution of India offers to the freedom of speech.”

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