Plea in Karnataka High Court: Centre trying to bring back Section 66A of IT Act under guise of IT Rules, 2021
The Centre, under the guise of regulating media, is trying to indirectly restrict and prevent free circulation of information, it is contended.
In Charita versus Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Karnataka High Court asked the Centre to reply in a petition seeking to declare Rule 3(1)(d) and Rule 7 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, 2021) (IT Rules, 2021) as ultra vires and unconstitutional.
Notice was issued in the petition filed by Advocate Charita V. by a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda.
The respondents, including the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, have been asked to file their objections by September 3. The rules introduced by the central government are in violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to citizens, the petition said.
According to the plea, "There are various terms stated in the IT Rules, 2021, such as decency, morality, public order etc. which are vague and not defined in either the rules or the principal legislation which it relies on. Therefore, in the absence of definite terms of interpretation, there is a possibility that the executive which is tasked with the authority of interpreting IT rules, would be given a wide discretion of powers which would in turn defeat the purpose of the rules and the same is likely to be misused due to lack of boundaries and lack of proper interpretation." The Centre, under the guise of media regulation, is trying to restrict free circulation of information, which is central to the growth of any democracy, it is further contended. The respondents are trying to bring back Section 66A of the IT Act through a backdoor entry, in the form of the IT Rules, 2021, the petitioner also said.
"It (Rules) is trying to bring in additional grounds for laying down curbs under the grounds of defamation, decency or morality," the petition read.
The petitioner has sought suspension of Rules 3 (1)(d) and Rule 7, and directing the respondents not to initiate any coercive action in penalties and blocking of access against publishers, intermediaries and citizens for non-compliance of the IT Rules 2021 as interim relief..
Filing of the petition was carried out through Advocate Chinmay Mirji and the matter will be next heard on September 6.