Delhi HC issues notice to MeitY, MIB on Quint Digital's plea challenging IT rules

The plea filed by Quint Digital Media, the publisher of news portal The Quint, has challenged the constitutional validity of the new IT Rules

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 22, 2021 10:27 AM
Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court has issued notices to the Ministry Of Electronics And Information Technology (MEITY) and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on a plea challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

The plea filed by Quint Digital Media, the publisher of news portal The Quint, has challenged the constitutional validity of the new IT Rules. Terming the new rules as 'unconstitutional', Quint argued that the new rules have a “chilling effect on media freedom”.

The division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Jasmeet Singh directed the centre to file its response and issued notice to it to file an affidavit. The court asked the government to give reasons as to why the operation of the rules should not be stayed.

The petitioner has sought a stay on the operation of the IT rules till the pendency of the case in order to ensure that no media portals were subjected to the “draconian” provisions of the new rules till the time their legality has been proved before the court.

In order to protect the interests of the digital news portals, the court assured the petitioner organisation that it will be allowed to move an urgent application if there’s any coercive step taken against it under the challenged rules.

The Kerala High Court had recently admitted a petition filed by Live Law Media against the new intermedia rules notified by the centre. The high court has directed the Union of India and the MIB not to take coercive action against the petitioners for non-compliance with the rules for digital news publishers.

The Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes the news website The Wire, had challenged the rules in the Delhi High Court.

The government had recently notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, the Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms, and digital media empower the MIB to implement Part-III of the Rules.

As per the guidelines, the digital news platforms will have to follow the journalistic conduct of the PCI and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act. The rules also mandate a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers, OTT Platforms, and digital media.

The publisher will have to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take a decision on every grievance it receives within 15 days.

There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days. The MIB will formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.

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