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Grievance Appellate Committee Orders Under IT Rules Can’t be Appealed: IT Minister

Citizens can approach the Supreme Court and High Courts for the enforcement of their fundamental rights

Orders passed by India’s “Grievance Appellate Committee” cannot be appealed against or revised under the country’s platform regulation rules, said Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar yesterday. However, citizens do have the right to approach the Supreme Court and High Courts for the enforcement of their fundamental rights, Chandrasekhar added in the written parliamentary reply.

What’s this appellate committee?: It was introduced last year through an amendment to India’s platform regulation rules, the IT Rules, 2021. Under the rules, social media platforms are required to have “grievance officers” that users can complain to in case of violation of the rules. If the grievance officers don’t satisfactorily resolve the complaint, the user can file an appeal with the Grievance Appellate Committee within 30 days.

“The need for GAC was created due to large numbers of grievances being left unaddressed or unsatisfactorily addressed by Internet Intermediaries,” said a recent government press release. “GAC is expected to create a culture of responsiveness amongst all Internet Platforms and Intermediaries towards their consumers.”

The final decision of the committee—whose members are appointed by the government—is binding on platforms if they want to keep their safe harbour protections. The committee also acts as an alternative to appealing a platform’s decision in court.

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Why it matters: The statement clarifies how Indian netizens can appeal against the committee’s decisions—which, some argue, have the potential to seriously impact fundamental rights. For example, when first proposed last year, the government-appointed committee was criticized for its ability to influence platform decisions to regulate content and speech online. “Ultimately, this also becomes a free speech issue…a Union-appointed body, becomes one of the bodies with the final say on what is permissible online or not,” said an expert speaking to us last year. Others also raised the concern that the committee may end up interpreting the law as it deliberates on user appeals. “You might have a situation where the Executive is interpreting the law at the GAC,” a policy expert told us last year. “This is the function of the Judiciary. The GAC creates a case for discretionary Executive power [over the Internet in India].” Some also questioned whether this body can be legally introduced through subsidiary regulation—like the IT Rules—instead of through the parent law, the IT Act, 2000.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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