‘May rob media of its independence’: Madras High Court stays two sub-rules of new IT rules

The same sub-rules had been stayed by the Bombay High Court in August.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Article image

The Madras High Court today stayed the operation of sub-rules (1) and (3) of Rule 9 of the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, Bar and Bench reported.

Rule 9(1) requires digital news media and OTT platforms to adhere to a code of ethics as laid down in the IT rules, while 9(3) provides for a three-tier grievance mechanism to handle complaints if the code of ethics is not complied with.

While staying both sub-rules, the court observed that prima facie, "the oversight mechanism to control the media by the government may rob the media of its independence and the fourth pillar, so to say, of democracy may not be there at all."

The court was hearing two petitions challenging the validity of the rules. The first was moved by musician TM Krishna and the second by the Digital News Publishers Association and journalist Mukund Padmanabhan. The petitioners had contended that the new rules would be used to take coercive action against media houses.

The bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu noted that for “understandable reasons, petitioners are wary of the oversight mechanism indicated as the final tier of the process of regulation”.

The Bombay High Court had stayed the same sub-rules – (1) and (3) of Rule 9 – in August. Today, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, advocate PS Raman said the Bombay High Court's move ought to have had a "pan-India effect". However, he said, the petitioners had still received notices by the central government saying they were in violation of Rule 9.

The court therefore said, "By way of abundant caution, sub-rules (1) and (3) of Rule 9 of IT Rules 2021 will remain stayed."

According to LiveLaw, the Madras High Court recorded in its order that additional solicitor general R Sankaranarayanan, on behalf of the central government, had acknowledged that the Bombay High Court's order would have a "pan-India" effect.

The next hearing is slated for October 27.

Also see
article imageSansad Watch Ep 6: How to 'rule' over digital media
article image'Potential to undermine freedom of press': Editors Guild writes to government about digital media rules


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like