The Delhi High Court has denied a request for an interim stay on the Information Technology Rules 2021, on May 27. Live Law reported that the case has been pushed forward as the high court is only hearing “urgent” cases.
The same day this order came out, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting issued a public notice instructing news organisations to send details of their compliance with the Rules within fifteen days.
The petitioners in the case —the Foundation for Independent Journalism, The Wire founding editor MK Venu, and The News Minute’s editor Dhanya Rajendran—argued that the government was overreaching on the authority granted to it by law, and that the rules were excessive. The rules give the government judicial-style powers over publications, it said. The next hearing will now be on August 4, over two months from now.
In response to a similar petition filed by The Quint, which was tagged along with the FIJ plea, the court similarly refused interim protections. But it said that it would hear urgent applications if need be. However, in March the Kerala High Court granted a stay to the legal news website LiveLaw from complying with the rules pending further proceedings.
The new IT Rules require online news publications to appoint a grievance officer, be a part of a self-regulatory body which can hear appeals from unsatisfied complainants, and finally submit to another level of oversight from the government. The Rules also require compliance with a code of ethics and rules that were before only applicable to print and broadcast media.
The IT Rules are also facing a challenge from WhatsApp, which has approached the Delhi High Court to fight a requirement to force the Facebook-owned messaging platform to trace the originator of messages flagged by the government. WhatsApp argues that the Rules are unconstitutional and would harm users’ privacy by forcing the company to make every message exchanged on the platform less secure by breaking its end-to-end encryption.
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