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Setback for Centre, SC Refuses to Stay HC Hearings on IT Rules

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had sought a stay of proceedings of pleas by various outlets, including 'The Wire' in high courts.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, July 9, refused to stay the proceedings in the high courts of Delhi and Kerala of cases challenging the IT Rules, and instead posted the Union government’s plea to transfer the cases to the apex court to July 16.

LiveLaw has reported that a bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna refused to pass any order except to tag the Union’s transfer petition with a special leave petition in Justice for Rights Foundation vs Union of India

Despite Solicitor General Tushar Mehta seeking a stay of high court proceedings of pleas filed by various parties against the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the bench has said that it “does not want to express anything on these submissions.”

“We are not saying anything. We are just tagging and listing before appropriate bench on July 16,” the bench said, according to LiveLaw.

Under Article 139A of the constitution, the Union government had filed a petition before the Supreme Court on July 7, for the transfer of all petitions challenging the constitutionality of the IT Rules to the apex court.

Citing the fact that the Supreme Court is already hearing challenges to the Rules made by over the top (OTT) platforms, the Centre has argued, “If the High Courts pass any orders in variance with the directions passed by the Supreme Court in the matter, it will create confusion and administrative issues across the entire country.”

The Centre’s transfer petition includes The Wire‘s own challenge to the IT Rules, along with those of The New Minute, LiveLaw, The Quint, Altnews and others’.

Also read: IT Rules: Delhi HC Directs Govt to File Reply to The Wire’s Plea for Stay on Coercive Action

The news organisations and individuals have pleaded that the new IT Rules, either in part or entirely, go beyond the scope of what is permissible under the IT Act and need to be struck down.

In addition, 13 media outlets under the banner of Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) and journalist Mukund Padmanabha had moved the Madras high court against the new IT Rules, appealing that the court declare them “ultra vires, void and violative of fundamental rights under the Constitution”.

Musician T.M. Krishna also separately approached the Madras high court, although his petition was clubbed with the above.

Journalist Nikhil Wagle and the website The Leaflet have challenged the Rules in the Bombay high court. The Kannada news outlet Pratidhvani has approached the Karnataka high court. India’s largest news agency Press Trust of India has also moved Delhi high court against the Rules.

Today, July 9, the Kerala high court also ordered – citing a similar protection granted to LiveLawthat no coercive action can be taken by the government against the News Broadcasters Association under the IT Rules.