On August 9, the Bombay High Court bench heard two petitions filed against the Information Technology (IT) Rules of 2021. The petitioner argued that the rules are draconian and vague.
Nikhil Wagle, a journalist for The Leaflet, appeared before the High Court accusing that the new Information Technology rules have adverse effects on the citizen’s right to free speech and freedom of the press guaranteed by India’s constitution.
The senior counselor appearing for Nikhil Wagle has urged Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni to stay towards implementing the new IT rules.
Darius Khambata, the senior counselor of the petitioner, has claimed that the rules and regulations under the new Information Technology Act are draconian.
The petitioner argued that the new rules aim to impose regulations on the information published by digital news portals, journalists, and citizens.
He further stated that the rules demand accountability and regulation of content published on social media platforms for grievance redressal.
However, the petitioner noted that the grounds of these rules are vague and violate the constitutional rights of Article 19.
The senior counselor said that the rules fall short in defining the meaning of adequate proof or defamatory content.
He stated that the laws prohibit news media houses from conducting a sting operation without evidence of an allegation which compromises investigative journalism.
The rules also highlight that defamatory content shouldn’t be posted against any public figure.
Advocate Abhay Nevagi, appearing before the High Court for Nikhil Wagle, stated that the rules are illicit, arbitrary, and violate citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of speech and liberty.
He noted that the rules go against net neutrality principles and account as a form of censorship. He said the traceability rule pushes social media platforms to identify the original sender of the message.
This accounts for a breach of privacy and can easily be misused.
Solicitor General Anil Singh appeared for the Central government and asked the High Court to provide interim relief to the petitioners.
He also stated that the High Court is transferring petitions to the apex Court. The Supreme Court will hear the petitions challenging the new Information Technology Act.
The Information and Technology Act was announced in February of this year and came into effect in May. The new rules have defined the way of proceedings of the social media platforms.
As per the guidelines, social media intermediaries should set up a compliance office and grievance redressal by appointing a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact officer, and a resident grievance officer.