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Bombay HC stays provisions of new IT rules for digital media, says they violate freedom of speech

The court said adherence to clauses 9 (1) and 9 (3) of new IT rules was in breach of free speech under Article 19 of the Constitution and went beyond the scope of IT act itself.

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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Saturday granted an interim stay to the operation of clauses 9 (1) and 9 (3) of the new Information Technology Rules, 2021 for digital media pertaining to adherence to a Code of Ethics.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said such compulsory adherence to code of ethics was in breach of the petitioners’ right to free speech guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. It also said that clause 9 went beyond the scope of the Information Technology Act itself.

The HC also refused the Union government’s request to stay the order to enable it file an appeal. The court, however, refused to stay clauses 14 and 16 of the IT Rules that deal with the constitution of an inter-ministerial committee and blocking of content in certain situations.

Legal news portal The Leaflet and journalist Nikhil Wagle had filed petitions challenging the new rules, saying they were likely to have a “chilling effect” on citizens’ right to free speech guaranteed by the Constitution. On Friday, the bench had asked the Union government what was the need to introduce the recently notified Information Technology Rules, 2021 without superseding the existing IT rules that came into effect in 2009.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the Union government, had argued that the need to bring in new regulations was felt for checking the spread of fake news.


Also read: What was the necessity to bring in new IT Rules? Bombay HC asks Centre


 

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