13 key news media firms move Madras HC: New IT Rules breach law and gag free speech

The petition has contended that these rules violate Articles 14 (equality), 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution (right to freedom of speech and expression and right to profession).

The Madras High Court has issued a notice on Wednesday to the Union Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Information & Broadcasting on a plea by Digital News Publishers Association, a 13-member collective of the nation’s biggest news media companies, challenging the Constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The petition has  these rules which violates Articles 14 (equality), 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution right to freedom of speech and expression and right to profession.

On hearing the application for interim orders, marks a bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy are recorded as the petitioners’ submission that there is “a sufficient basis for the petitioner which apprehension that coercive and arm-twisting action may be taken” under-such-provisions.

Besides this an order seeking restraint of operation  Rules 12, 14 and 16 Rule 16 of the Rules give the Secretary, I&B, emergency powers to block, as an interim measure, public access to any information or a part of it without giving the intermediary hosting that said information of any opportunity given for hearing.

The provision 12 offers options for one or more self-regulatory body of publishers and 14 says that I&B Ministry may constitute an inter-departmental committee with representatives from other Ministries.

On February 25 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had announced the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code.

And the three-part Rules had guidelines for social media intermediaries, significant social media intermediaries, and digital news publications.

Also the IT ministry has declared that the nodal ministry for compliance with guidelines on social media intermediaries, the Ministry of I&B is given a administrative charge for compliance of guidelines announced for digital news websites, over-the-top platforms and online media agencies.

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