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Delhi HC issues notice to Centre on another plea challenging new IT rules

similar petition was filed by The Wire and legal website LiveLaw.

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Friday sought the Centre's response on another plea challenging the new Information Technology rules which seek to regulate digital news media.

A bench of chief justice D N Patel and justice Jasmeet Singh issued notices to the ministry of electronics and information technology and the ministry of information and broadcasting and granted them time to file their responses, PTI reported.

In its plea challenging the new IT rules, Quint Digital Media has argued that regulation of publishers of news and current affairs content, as provided under Part III, is in violation of Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India, as reported by Bar and Bench. It stated that online news portals ought to be treated on par with print newspapers as they both contain written material on current affairs. It further argued that the rules attempt to proscribe content on digital media sites based on “vague and subjective grounds”.

The case was adjourned for 16 April along with another similar petition filed by the Foundation for Independent Journalism and The Wire, which had submitted that the rules put an additional regulatory burden on digital news media. A plea was also filed in the Kerala high court by legal website LiveLaw. In both cases, the courts had issued notices to the Centre.

The government had laid down the new rules for social media platforms, digital media and OTT platforms on 25 February. The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 enable the setting up of a three-tier oversight mechanism for online content and a grievance redressal mechanism. Under the rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker. It also makes these platforms more pliable in assisting government agencies in the investigation.

Several media organisations have criticised the rules stating that the regulations could pose a threat to freedom of expression by laying the ground for tightening executive control over digital media. The Editors Guild of India too had demanded the repeal of these rules, highlighting that the laws are “deeply concerning”. 

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