On 16th September 2021, the Hon’ble Madras High Court was the Second Court after the Hon’ble Bombay High Court to pass a stay order on the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital media ethics code) Rules, 2021. In the Writ Petition No. 13055 and 12515 of 2021 (DNPA Vs. Union of India 2021 and other connected matters), the DNPA (Digital News Publishers Association) has moved to the Hon’ble Court for the issuance of stay on the Intermediary guidelines and subsequent to that the Hon’ble Madras High Court passed the stay order.  Read the Judgement Here- 

The Madras High court passed the order in connection with two petitions challenging the validity of Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital media ethics code) Rules, 2021. One petition is public interest litigation (PIL) Petition moved by Carnatic musician TM Krishna while the order is writ petition moved by the Digital News Publishers Association and Journalist Mukund Padmanabhan. The Madras High Court has stayed 2 clauses in India IT Rules, 2021, saying that the oversight mechanism prescribed in the rules appears to be aimed “at controlling the media by the government, and this could lead to disintegration to the fourth pillar of democracy. Prima facie there is substance that the oversight mechanism to control the media by the government may rob the media of its independence and the fourth pillar of the democracy may not at all be there,” the bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu, said while passing the interim order. “By way of abundant caution, sub Rules 1 and 3 of Rules 9 of the said Rules of 2021 will remain stayed.”

There is a substantial basis to the petitioner’s assertion that there may be a violation of Article 19(1) (a) [Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression] in how the rules may be coercively applied to intermediaries. Accordingly, if there is any action taken in terms of Rules 3 of the said Rules read with (Rule) 7 [Rule 7 says that if an intermediary fails to abide by the IT Rules, it would not be granted the protective exemption under Section 79 of the information Technology Act,2000] thereof, it will abide by petition, “the bench observed.

Prior to the finding of Madras High Court, in the case of Agij Promotion of Nineteenonea Media Pvt. Ltd.& Ors. (famously known as the ‘The Leaflet’) Vs. Union of India and Nikhil Mangesh Waghle Vs. Union of India (W.P (L) No. 14172 of 2021), on 14th August, 2021 the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has put an abeyance on the rules which is the current talk of the privacy ray in India.

The bench of the Hon’ble Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish kulkarni of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court stayed the provisions of the Government’s New Information Technology Rules i.e. Rule 9(1) and Rule 9(3) of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Rule 9(1) of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital media ethics code) Rules, 2021says “The Ministry shall establish an online Grievance Portal, as the central repository for receiving and processing all grievances from the public in respect of the Code of Ethics, within three months of the commencement of the rules”.  

And Rule 9(3) of the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 says “The Portal shall generate and issue an acknowledgement of the grievance a the benefit of the complainant within 24 hours of its registration, and electronically direct the grievance to the applicable entity for addressing the grievance, and also refer such grievance to the Ministry and the self-regulating body for information and record”.

These rules are related to digital news media having to follow a code of conduct while also providing for a three tier structure for addressing grievances.

This article is written by Ms. Shraddha R. Rane (4th Year Law Student at BCT Law College, Panvel) and edited by Adv. Monica H. Mishra (Registered Practitioner with Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa)



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