The Bombay High Court has sought the centre’s response over an affidavit filed by comedian Kunal Kamra against the amended IT Rules that empower the government to identify “fake news” about itself on social media.
The amendment, notified on April 6, says social media companies and other intermediaries must take down content deemed fake by a government fact-check unit. , intermediaries are not permitted to “host, display, upload, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information in respect to any business of the central government that is identified as fake or false or misleading by such fact-check unit”. Intermediaries that don’t comply will lose their “safe harbour” protection in India.
Meanwhile, hearing Kamra’s plea on Tuesday, the Bombay High Court directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to explain why the rules should not be stayed and to “describe the factual background that necessitated the issuance of the amendments”.
“These rules have a chilling effect and are enough to chill people. After the publication of this notification, my client is liable to the fact-checking committee. He will not have any say when the Rule is retrospectively applied,” said Kamra’s plea, filed through his lawyer Navroz Seervai, according to the .
“The impugned rules are ultra vires of section 79 (exemption from liability of intermediary in certain cases) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and articles 14 and 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, and therefore unconstitutional and void…They strike at the very rule of law and our democratic polity, as they constitute a direct assault by the respondent authorities on freedom of thought, speech and expression, referred to by the Supreme Court as one of the three pillars of our Constitution,” the plea stated.
The court will hear the matter again on April 21.
Initial reports suggested this fact-check unit will be the Press Information Bureau’s fact-checking unit but Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister of state for electronics and IT, had that this is not mentioned in the amendment. He also assured the press that the new obligations apply only to intermediaries, not the media.
But journalists aren’t buying it. Read Newslaundry report to understand why they think it’s similar to “censorship”.
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