Bombay HC grants interim stay on part of IT Rules

Bombay High Court grants interim stay on part of IT Rules

A bench observed that such compulsory adherence to code of ethics was in breach of the petitioners’ right to free speech

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In a significant development, the Bombay High Court has granted an interim stay to the operation of clauses 9 (1) and 9 (3) of the new Information Technology Rules, 2021, for digital media vis-a-vis the adherence to the Code of Ethics.

However, the court declined to stay Rule 14 and 16 of the IT Rules.

In the order, a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni observed that such compulsory adherence to the Code of Ethics was in breach of the petitioners’ right to free speech guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

According to the court, clauses 9(1) and 9(3) of the IT (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 infringe the fundamental right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) and was against the substantive provisions of the IT Act, 2002.

“Rule 9 was found to be an intrusion on the petitioner's rights under Article 19(1)(a)….it goes beyond the substantive law of the Information Technology Act….Therefore we have stayed clauses 9(1) and 9(3). The rule is not stayed in its entirety,” the bench observed.

The Bombay High Court had on Friday reserved orders in two pleas — by digital platform The Leaflet and journalist-activist Nikhil Wagle - challenging the recently notified Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2020.

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