Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection to the digital news platforms that challenged The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
The bench of Justices DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard a batch of petitions including the petitions filed by digital news portals like The Quint, The Wire, and others.
Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan representing the digital news portals sought the court’s direction for respondents not to take any coercive action against the petitioners and grant them interim protection.
Responding to the prayer, Justice DN Patel, refused to grant any interim protection to the digital news portals as prayed by the counsels representing them.
The respondent Central government informed the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that it has moved a petition in the Supreme Court of India to transfer all the petitions challenging the IT Rules, 2021 in the various High Courts of the country.
The Delhi High Court also directed the respondent Central government to file the reply in the present petition that is being heard by the Delhi High Court.
According to the petition filed by The Quint that challenged the new set of rules on the ground that special categorisation has been created in the Rules which has put an additional burden on digital news media and current affairs.
The Quint stated in the petition that by classifying digital news and current affairs as separate entities and identifying it as different from the print news, the Centre has done an arbitrary and discriminatory classification which is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Recently, Delhi High Court’s vacation bench had issued a notice to the Centre on a fresh application challenging the IT Rules, 2021 filed by Pravda Media Foundation, the parent company of ALT News.
Another plea was filed in March by the Foundation for Independent Journalism that publishes The Wire, a digital news website against the vires of the IT Rules, 2021.
Another plea challenging IT Rules, 2021 has been filed by Sanjay Singh, a practising lawyer. According to him, the intermediary is brought under tremendous pressure to remove content that purportedly does not comply with the rules and to immediately block access to the user on its own.
Otherwise, when it receives directions from a government agency or a competent court regarding any information on the purported ground of it being unlawful, the intermediary has to remove such content or block access to it within 36 (thirty-six) hours or face punishment up to seven years of imprisonment, he added.
According to the new IT rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations.
The IT Rules were notified by the Central government on March 25 2021. The newly notified rules Will regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, over-the-top (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries.