The Union of India, represented by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Information Broadcasting (MIB), has filed two counter-affidavits before the Madras High Court in reply to the petitions challenging the validity of the new IT Rules 2021, Bar and Bench reported.
Seeking the dismissal of the petitions, the MIB defended the new IT Rules 2021 stating that they are “well within the scope of the IT Act, 2000 and do not infringe any fundamental rights.”
The MIB further submitted that there is little evidence to show that the new Rules have had a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech and added that no penalties or sanctions are imposed on users who post content in contravention of the Rules.
This is similar to the submission made in the Delhi High Court a few days ago in defence of the same.
The MeitY’s counter-affidavit stated that the new IT Rules 2021 have been introduced for the benefit of the public and the intention is to ensure adequate regulation of digital and intermediary platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, among others.
“The rationale and justification for the IT Rules is to substantially empower the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievance and command accountability in the case of infringement of their rights,” it further said.
The counter-affidavit also cited various reasons for the introduction of the new Rules. These included the significant expansion of online intermediary ecosystem; growth of online social media platforms and their influencing capabilities; international developments in social regulation; compelling need to have a framework to deal with messages that have become viral and resulted in riots, mob lynching, and other heinous crimes, including those concerning the dignity of women and sexual abuse of children; alignment of requirements of the law enforcement agencies and other appropriate agencies; and need to refine and modernise the intermediary liability framework.
The matter is next scheduled to be heard by the Madras High Court on September 14.
Ever since the introduction of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 in February to regulate content in OTT platforms, social media intermediaries and digital news media, several cases have been filed across the country challenging it.
Petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the new IT Rules 2021 have been filed before the Madras High Court by Carnatic vocalist and social commentator TM Krishna’s and the Digital News Publishers Association comprising 13 media outlets and journalist Mukund Padmanabhan.
Earlier, on July 14, during the hearing of Krishna’ writ petition, the Union of India had submitted that it has filed a petition to transfer all the cases challenging the same to the Supreme Court.