New Delhi: The government has been actively using the new rules it formulated under the IT Act, 2000 over the last two years, even though these rules have not been discussed in parliament.
The Committees of Subordinate Legislation of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have not taken up the the rules for discussion, Deccan Herald reported citing an RTI response.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified on February 25, 2021, to include rules about social media, OTT platforms and digital news organisations. Usually, rules of this sort must be tabled in parliament within 15 days for discussion and debate.
However, in response to an RTI request filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has said its bulletin does not have any mention of the rules being tabled in the House till now.
“It seems that the concerned Ministry i.e. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology have not forwarded the said notification for laying on the Table of the House within a period of 15 days of its publication in the official Gazette. (Para 6.15 of the Government and Parliament-Procedure to be followed by Ministries in connection with Parliamentary work),” it said, according to Deccan Herald.
The Rajya Sabha Secretariat said all such notifications are available publicly on its website. In its bulletin, it can be seen that the rules were tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 25, 2021.
Most recently, the Union government used these rules to direct YouTube and Twitter to take down posts with link to the BBC documentary on Narendra Modi’s alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Nayak noted that the government has not shared the blocking orders for the documentary spelling out the reasons for the takedowns. Under the IT rules, the government has to put these reasons in writing. He added that he has previously requested access to blocking orders in other cases using the RTI, but the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting invoked the national security exemption under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act to refuse to reply.
“The reluctance of the Union Government to be more transparent about its actions while and after blocking content on social and digital media platforms, including the latest action against the BBC documentary film only gives rise to suspicion about its intentions,” Nayak said.
“If the Government believes it has an iron-clad case to invoke its powers under the 2021 Rules to block such content, it must make such orders and all materials public,” he continued.
Note: This article was edited to note that the rules have been tabled in the Rajya Sabha.