Court refuses to stay new IT rules set for digital media

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New Delhi. The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to stay the new Information Technology Rules framed to regulate digital media and said it did not agree with the petitioners to pass such an order at this stage. Pravda Media Foundation, which runs ‘Foundation for Independent Journalism’, ‘The Wire’, Quint Digital Media Limited and ‘Alt News’, had requested for a stay on the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Conduct) Rules, 2021 . These companies said that a fresh notice has been issued to them, stating that they will have to follow the rules, otherwise action will be taken against them.

A vacation bench of Justice C Hari Shankar and Justice Subrahmanyam Prasad observed that the notices were issued to the said companies only for complying with the notification, on which there is no stay. The bench said, “We do not agree with you. If you want, we will issue a detailed order or if you want, we will notify it again in front of the roster bench. You let us know after taking the instructions.” Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the said companies, requested the court to list the matter when the court opens after the holiday. The court ordered listing of the stay applications before the roster bench on July 7.

As per the amended IT rules, social media and streaming companies will have to swiftly remove controversial content, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations. Meanwhile, the court has sought a response from the central government on a fresh petition filed by Pravda Media Foundation regarding the validity of IT rules. The court asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to file their response on the petition within four weeks and listed the matter for hearing on August 4. The petitions filed by ‘Foundation for Independent Journalism’, The Wire and Quint Digital Media Limited are also to be heard on the same date.

During the hearing of the petitions for stay on IT rules, the bench observed that the matter had come up for hearing thrice before the roster bench and the petitioners should have sought stay at the same time. The bench said, “The matter came to the fore on May 27 also. Even then you did not get interim relief. What they (authorities) are taking right now is just enforcing the rules. Now the notice that has been issued to you is to comply with the rules as they are not barred. We don’t agree with you.

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