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Govt advisers warned new IT Rules beyond scope of law, but were overruled: Report

Two of the government's own legal advisers warned it that the new Information Technology (IT) Rules were beyond the scope of the law and required parliamentary approval, but law secretary Anoop Mendiratta overruled this advice for “the larger public interest,” Article 14 reported on Monday. This information was revealed based on internal communication documents obtained by independent journalist Saurav Das under the Right to Information Act. This advice, however, was given in January and February last year and pertains to an earlier draft of the rules and not the final version. On November 11, 2020, the government issued a gazette notification bringing OTT streaming platforms and digital news media under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Following this, the previously finalized rules were reworked to include a mechanism to regulate OTT platforms and digital news media, the report stated. It is not known if the legal advisers had a chance to review the changes and make comments following the inclusion of OTT platforms and digital news media. Based on the documents obtained by Article 14, the law ministry advisers did not seem to comment on the inclusion of OTT platforms and digital media in the IT rules, but noted that there was "no specific provision in the IT Act enabling (sic) to impose any penalty or to take penal action against the intermediaries or digital media." The law ministry indicated that violators will be liable under "relevant law" and not under IT Act because the latter would need amendments to allow the same. Make suitable amendments to…

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