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Fact Check Amendment is Not Related to Curbing Free Speech At All: Govt Defends Rule Before Bombay HC

“Any humour, satire, whether to the liking of the government or not…has nothing to do with these regulations, unless the humour does not cross the boundaries of decency, as we understand in Indian parlance…” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued. Here’s a detailed round up of all the arguments made by the govt in an ongoing challenge against the fact check amendment at the Bombay HC.

“It [the fact check amendment] is not related to curbing free speech at all,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued before the Bombay High Court this week, while defending the government’s plans to give state-appointed unit power to fact-check government-related information online.  Multiple constitutional challenges against the amendment argue that the fact check unit may stifle free speech online while flagging government-related content as ‘fake, false, or misleading’. The government has since promised to stay the law’s notification until October 3rd.  Appearing before Justices G.S. Patel and Neela Gokhale, Mehta added that “the government [does] not proscribe or prohibit under these rules or otherwise, any expression of opinion or criticism or comparative analysis. In fact, we invite them, we encourage them, and we would learn from them...Any humour, satire, whether to the liking of the government or not—when I say government, I mean the political government, not the constitutional government—has nothing to do with these regulations, unless the humour does not cross the boundaries of decency, as we understand in Indian parlance, [which is content that is] abusive or pornographic or something. But, mere criticism...has never been conceived to be a subject matter of these regulations.” Introduced this year through an amendment to India’s platform regulation rules, the IT Rules, 2021, the petitioners allege that intermediaries, or platforms, will lose safe harbour, or protection from liability for third-party content, for failing to take down the flagged ‘fake, false or misleading’ information. Safe harbour is held under Section 79 of the IT…

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