HC stays provisions of IT rules on ‘Code Of Ethics’ by digital media

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The judges noted that the petitioner’s claim was meritorious and non-intervention by the court would amount to a failure of justice

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

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS 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.

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The court, however, refused to stay Clauses 14 and 16 of the IT rules that deal with the constitution of an interministerial 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.