New Delhi, Mar 19 (ILNS) The Delhi High Court today sought a response from the Centre and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting over a petition filed by online news portal The Quint, challenging the new IT Rules with respect to online news portals and websites.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice on the petition filed by the media portal through Advocates Prasanna S and Vinoothna Vinjam. The court has tagged the matter for April 16 with a similar petition filed by the Foundation of Independent Journalism against the Rules.
The petition challenged the IT Rules, 2021 only in so far as they affect digital news portals, and not with reference to ‘publishers of online curated content,’ that is OTT media platforms or any other entities sought to be regulated by the Rules.
The plea sought the court’s direction to declare the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 as void and inoperative in so far as they define and apply to publishers of news and current affairs content, and Part III of the Rules, in so far as it regulates publishers of news and current affairs content, for being violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution.
It said, “Digital news portals such as The Quint, published by the petitioner, are already subject to all the civil and criminal laws enacted for those interests. Therefore, the IT Rules, 2021 cannot be in the interest of Article 19(2). They are only meant to be a ruse for the state to enter and directly control the content of digital news portals,” said the petition.
The Quint submitted that online news portals ought to be treated on par with print newspapers as they both contain written material on current affairs. It further contended that the Regulation is ultra vires even the Information Technology Act as the Rules go beyond what is contemplated in the parent Act.
“The parent IT Act deals with electronic data/record, the object and purpose of the IT Act, is primarily to provide for legal recognition of such electronic data/record, recognize means of electronic communication, authenticate and establish conditions in which electronic data/record could be considered as evidence, and recognize offenses committed through the use of computer resources…the IT Act does not recognize digital news media as a separate category of entities and does not seek to subject them or their content to any set of special regulations,” it explained.
The petitioner added that the Rules attempt to proscribe content on digital media sites on the basis of vague and subjective grounds, which the Supreme Court had already voided, when it struck down Section 66A of the IT Act in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India. ILNS/SNG/RJ