IT Rules: SC Lists Batch of Petitions, Related Cases for Hearing After Six Weeks

The decision came as the Chief Justice of India expressed concerns about false, communal news stories flooding digital media platforms.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on September 3 listed a group of petitions related to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, for hearing after six weeks, Live Law reported.

The bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana, made the decision while hearing a bundle of petitions which sought action against media houses which had added a communal colour to the coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident, which had taken place in March of last year. 

While hearing this case, the CJI had noted serious concerns regarding the spread of false news reports on digital media platforms as well as the communal tone present in private news channels’ coverage, remarking that it “brings a bad name to the country.”

Also read: SC Concerned Over Communal Tone of News Channels, Social Media’s Lack of Accountability

Responding to the court’s concerns, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed that the IT Rules address the issues that the CJI was speaking of. Mehta went on to note that several high courts in the country are hearing petitions challenging these rules, some of which have even passed interim orders. He said that transfer petitions to have the cases heard by the Supreme Court have been filed in some instances and that the apex court needs to hear these cases to provide a conclusive verdict.

These cases include Special Leave Petitions (SLP) filed against the Kerala high court’s order which granted interim protection from coercive action under part three of the IT Rules in the cases News Broadcasters Association and Others v. Union of India and LiveLaw Media Private Limited and Others v. Union of India. Rule three of the IT Rules seek to regulate content posted by digital media organisations.

Also read: IT Rules: Kerala HC Gives News Broadcasters Association Interim Protection From Coercive Action

The Bombay high court’s interim order to stay the enforcement of the IT Rules in the case of AGIJ Promotion of Nineteenonea Media Private Limited and Others v. Union of India was another such case.

The Solicitor General also made specific reference to a writ petition filed by one Firoz Iqbal Khan against a Sudarshan TV programme about “UPSC jihad” and a SLP filed against a Delhi high court order dismissing a writ petition seeking to regulate content on OTT platforms filed by the Justice for Rights Foundation.

Representing the petitioner, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde mentioned a SLP which had been filed against the Telangana high court for its refusal to issue guidelines to regulate a communal hate campaign on Twitter.

CJI Ramana, after hearing about these cases, directed the Supreme Court registry to all the petitions that had been mentioned to be heard at the next hearing, which will take place after a period of six weeks.