Bombay HC seeks Centre's affidavit on IT rules amendment to identify fake news

Kamra in the petition has sought the court to declare the amended rules as unconstitutional and a direction to the government to restrain from taking action against any individual under the rules.

Published: 11th April 2023 01:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2023 09:59 AM   |  A+A-

Bombay High Court (Photo | PTI)

Bombay High Court (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

MUMBAI:  The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Ministry of Electronics and IT to submit its affidavit over stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra’s petition contesting an amendment to the Information Technology Rules that give the Centre the authority to identify false information on social media that is critical of the government.

Kamra moved the Bombay High Court on Tuesday challenging the recent amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules 2021).

The amendment in Rule 3 provides that the Ministry of Electronics and IT can notify a fact-checking body which is empowered to identify and tag what it considers false or fake online news with respect to any activity of the Central government.

The telecom service providers and social media intermediaries will then have to take action against such content failing which they would lose the safe harbour protection under Section 79 of the IT Act.

A division bench of Justices GS Patel and Neela Ghokhale asked the Centre to respond on whether there was any factual background or reasoning that necessitated this amendment. “Was there any factual background or reasoning that necessitated the amendment? The petitioner (Kamra) anticipates some kind of impact due to this amendment,” the bench said.

The bench posted the hearing on April 21. Kamra identified himself as a political satirist who shares his work on social media. He said the Rules might cause his content to be arbitrarily blocked or his social media accounts to be temporarily or permanently shut down, which would be detrimental to his job.

Kamra has asked the court to declare modified rules unlawful and order the government to refrain from enforcing the laws against anyone. “They strike at the very rule of law and our democratic polity, as they constitute a direct assault by the respondent on freedom of thought, speech and expression,” the plea said.

Kamra’s challenge

The plea: Filed by Kunal Kamra contests amendment to IT rule that empowers govt to identify false info on social media critical of govt

What HC says: HC seeks Centre’s response, posts matter for April 21

Court’s query: Was there any factual background that necessitated the amendment?


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