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Brief: Arguments made by Foundation for Independent Journalism in plea challenging IT Rules 2021

The regulatory mechanisms prescribed for digital news portals in the IT Intermediary Rules 2021, notified last month, are dealing with matters that are nowhere mentioned in the parent act — the Information Technology Act, 2000, said The Foundation for Independent Journalism and others in their petition challenging the new rules. Hence the Rules are ultra vires (beyond the scope) of the parent act, and need to declared as "void and inoperative", reads the petition filed in the Delhi High Court earlier this week. On Tuesday, the Delhi HCt issued a notice to the central government in response to the petition filed by the FIJ (a trust which owns The Wire), its founding editor MK Venu and Dhanya Rajendran, founder and editor-in-chief of The News Minute. The petitioners claimed that the entirety of Part III of the Rules, which deal with digital media publishers, is ultra vires the IT Act. They called the Rules an overreach by way of subordinate legislation. For more context on how the IT Rules propose to regulate digital media, read our summary. 9 arguments made in the petition Rules allow government to dictate content on digital news portals: The petition states the Rules enable the government to virtually dictate content to digital news portals. The Rules, it said, subjects "news and current affairs content" — a specific and targeted class — to a loose-ranging "Code of Ethics", which will be overseen by the central government. Brief goes beyond IT Act's mandate: The IT Act deals only with generic…

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