NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said the Centre's plea seeking transfer of petitions challenging the validity of new IT Rules from different high courts to the apex court would be heard on July 16 along with a pending matter related to regulation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna tagged the Centre's plea with a pending special leave petition (SLP) in which the apex court had in March this year stayed proceedings before several high courts on petitions related to regulation of OTT platforms. "We will tag it (Centre's plea) with the SLP," the bench said, adding, the matter would be listed before an appropriate bench on July 16.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, urged the bench to stay the proceedings pending in different high courts on pleas challenging the validity of the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. "We are not saying anything. We are simply tagging it with the other matter," the bench said.
One of the advocates, appearing in the matter, told the bench that the pending SLP is prior to the new Rules. According to the new IT Rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressable officers and assist in investigations.
The new Rules also seek to regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, over-the-top (OTT) platforms and social media intermediaries. The Centre has moved the apex court seeking transfer of pleas challenging the validity of new IT Rules from different high courts to the top court for an authoritative pronouncement on the issue.
Several petitions challenging the new IT Rules are pending adjudication in different high courts, including the high courts of Delhi and Madras. The top court had earlier issued notice on a separate transfer petition filed by the Centre seeking to club all petitions filed in various high courts on the issue of regulating OTT platforms.
Several pleas challenging the validity of new IT Rules are pending adjudication in the Delhi High Court which had sought response from the Centre on these petitions.
Some of the pleas pending before the Delhi High Court have sought striking down of specific part of the IT Rules on the ground that it allegedly violates Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution creating a "chilling effect" on media freedom, Article 14 of the Constitution by creating an unreasonable classification and by setting up a parallel adjudicatory mechanism to be overseen by the officials of executive and is ultra vires the IT Act.
The Madras High Court had on June 23 issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the new IT rules. In March this year, the Kerala High Court had sought the Centre's response on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of new IT Rules.