On Thursday, September 16, the Madras High Court suspended the application of a key provision of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, enacted in May, citing the right to freedom of speech and expression as essential in a democracy. The provision has put in place a monitoring mechanism by the Center to regulate social media and digital media platforms.
When passing the interim order, a bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavulu said: the fourth pillar of democracy may not be there at all. “The High Court said declared this while maintaining the application of Rules 9 (1) and 9 (3) of the 2021 Information Technology Rules (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Code of Ethics for Digital Media), reported The Indian Express.
What is rule 9 of computer rules?
Rule 9 of the IT Rules prescribes a complaints mechanism while Subsection 1 establishes a portal to be set up by the Ministry of Informatics to receive complaints against media portals. Under subsection 3, after receipt of the complaint, an acknowledgment of receipt is generated within 24 hours, which is then transmitted to the relevant media platform and the Ministry of Information and Technology.
This is the second time that a High Court has invoked the right to freedom of expression while keeping the same provision in computer rules. Last month, the Bombay High Court suspended rules 9 (1) and 9 (3), calling them unreasonable and going beyond the IT law.
The provision was challenged in the Madras High Court by the Digital News Publishers Association, a grouping of 13 major media companies in the country – Amar Ujala Limited, ABP Network Private Limited, DB Corp Limited, Express Network Pvt Ltd, HT Digital Streams Ltd, IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd, Jagran Prakashan Limited, Lokmat Media Private Limited, NDTV Convergence Limited, TV Today Network Limited, The Malayala Manorama Co (P) Ltd, Times Internet Limited and Ushodaya Enterprises Private Limited.
The High Court also considered Rule 3 (1) (c), which terminates the rights of access or use of users for failure by media platforms to comply with grievance provisions.
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