The motion for annulment of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, which was moved in Rajya Sabha by P.Rajeeve, a Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala, and a member of the Communist Part of India (Marxist), has been defeated during a voice vote.
However, IT & Communications Minister, Kapil Sibal, asked MPs to write individual letters mentioning specific words they had objections with, and that he would call a meeting of the members and the industry stakeholders for a discussion,to arrive on a consensus, following which the rules could be altered. Interestingly, in his response, he stated that the Government did not intend to interfere, and that the intermediary could work directly with the complainant after sending a notice. He also drew parallels between Terms of Service laid down by internet companies to the IT Rules to justify them, and said that India was more liberal compared to the US and European countries, when it comes to policies regulating the internet.
The motion, which was taken up for discussed by the Rajya Sabha, yesterday, brought members of the house together against the open-ended terms laid out in the IT Rules, including BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who expressed his disagreement over the use of terms like ‘harmful, ‘harassing’ and ‘blasphemous’ in the IT Rules.
Jaitley iterated each of these terms citing possible potential for misuse. He also talked about legitimate criticism, defamation backed by truth, and impersonation, and the ambiguity in the rules which could make content commonly published ib the print media, illegal on the internet. He urged Kapil Sibal to reconsider the language of the kind of restraints that he wanted to bring as a result of this Motion.
Read: Arun Jaitley’s speech (BJP website)
Janta Dal(United) MP, NK Singh, also said that the rules were vague and placed curbs that are not applicable to other forms of media. Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress said that content on internet could not be pre-empted and there is a need to control damage caused. Ram Gopal Yadav of Samajvadi Party also shared the same sentiment and asked Kapil Sibal for an assurance against misuse. P. Rajive also defended the motion and called for the need of DMCA style detailed take down notices instead of the present scenario, where vague terms could be cited for taking down content.
– The status of the Rules : The IT Rules continue to be in force .
– Bill in the Lok Sabha? As Chakshu Roy of PRS Legislative Research had informed us, someone would have to introduce a separate motion (in the Lok Sabha) and then Lok Sabha would decide on that. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha are separate houses and a motion passed in one house its not binding on the other house.
(IT) Rules or no rules, companies can still be taken to court for censorship, as we’ve seen in the case of Facebook and Google. More on that here and here. The IT Rules have been cited in recent court orders related to removal of content: Nirmal Baba Order | Sri Sri Ravi Shankar order.