A petition has been filed before Delhi High Court by online news portal ‘The Wire’ challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which has created a regulatory framework for digital media and imposes liability on internet intermediaries. A division bench headed by Justice DN Patel will consider the petition today, reported LiveLaw.
One of the criticisms levelled against the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, is that they circumvented the parliamentary process. Other commentators have pointed out that their wording is not precise, and can render the rules open to misuse, states an article published by The Wire. The use of the terms “offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India” and “the security of the State” give the government wide berth to use this provision to scuttle dissent. This also virtually legitimises a form of backdoor surveillance on these grounds.
In one of the articles by Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) published on The Wire, the new Rules were analysed and highlighted, among other things, how an oversight mechanism provided for in the Rules has no clear legislative backing and will perform functions similar to those played by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for TV regulation. It also points out the law under which the new Rules have been framed, The Information technology Act, 2000, does not extend to news media and hence the Rules have no legislative backing to regulate news media.
The Supreme Court on the other hand observed, while hearing Amazon India original Head Aparna Purohit’s anticipatory bail plea that the new IT rules lacked teeth as they have no effective regulation of screening or taking appropriate action.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) had said in its press release while notifying the Rules, “These Rules are a fine blend of liberal touch with gentle self-regulatory framework. It works on the existing laws and statues of the country which are applicable to content whether online or offline.”