A vacation bench of the Delhi High Court refused on Monday to provide interim relief to The Quint, The News Minute, and The Wire against coercive action under the Information Technology (Intermediary Liability and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The development was reported by The Quint, one of the petitioners; the judgment notified the batch of cases to the regular bench that is hearing the matter on July 7.
“The matter is pending before the regular division bench, no stay was granted. They are only implementing the notification on which there is no stay. There is no question of interim relief,” the vacation bench of C Hari Shankar and Subramonium Prasad reportedly said while issuing the order. The regular bench had refused such an interim stay on May 27 too.
In the petition filed by the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which runs The Wire, its founding editor MK Venu, and The News Minute’s editor Dhanya Rajendran argued that the Rules were an overreach of authority, and therefore unconstitutional. The Quint argued that the Rules allowed the government to “dictate” content on the internet. In one petition, the Delhi High Court said that while it would not provide interim relief, it would hear any urgent petitions if the need arose.
The Rules require news organisations to appoint a grievance officer who reviews and disposes of complaints from readers or viewers of online news; on top of this, they must have membership in a self-regulatory body that is constituted in accordance with government norms, to which people unsatisfied with the outcome of the first complaint can appeal. Finally, an inter-departmental committee would have the power to order censorship of this content. The Rules also require government-sponsored ethics norms to be complied with, a requirement that was hitherto only required for TV and newspaper media outlets.
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