There are currently six petitions filed by various news outlets such as The Quint, The Wire, PTI and Live Law, which are being tried in high courts across the country.
While taking a breather for news channels with an online presence, the Kerala Supreme Court has withheld the government from any coercive action against members of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) regarding the rules of information technology (broker liability and code of ethics for digital media) 2021, the Press Trust of India reported. Judge PB Suresh Kumar briefed the government on the case. The Kerala Supreme Court has not yet published its ruling on The News Broadcasters Association v. Department of Electronics and Information Technology on its website. Constitutional challenges aside, the NBA reportedly argued that the 2021 IT rules would allow the government to perform judicial functions.
The IT rules require news organizations to:
- appoint a complaints officer;
- Be a member of a self-regulatory body;
- Complaints against their content are subject to possible government supervision if the complainants are not satisfied with the result;
- publish a monthly report on received complaints; and
- Adhere to the press ethical codes and norms that previously only applied to television stations and newspapers.
Traditional news publishers have complained that the rules should not apply to them, a curse that the Department of Information and Broadcasting has rejected, claiming that any additional relaxation for traditional media is unnecessary and discriminatory for pure digital publications.
The Kerala High Court has emerged as the only high court holding the government – at least temporarily – back on IT rules. Both the News Broadcasters Association and the Digital News Publishers Association – the latter, despite its name, is an association of traditional media groups with a digital presence – are based in the National Capital Region, but have opted for Kerala and Madras. ruled by the higher courts or, as early as March, the legal news publication LiveLaw was suspended by the Kerala High Court.
Transfer application pending at SC
This is at least the ninth such incident against the message provisions in the IT rules of high courts across the country. The government has been sued by The Wire, The Quint, The Leaflet, the Press Trust of India, Carnatic singer TM Krishna (with support from the Internet Freedom Foundation) and a lawyer Sanjay Kumar Singh for the constitutionality of IT rules. The proceedings are taking place in the High Courts of Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Kerala. The government began transferring the case to the Supreme Court in April, which is due to hear the case on July 16.
To varying degrees, the various petitions argue that the rules are unconstitutional, go beyond the scope of the overriding legislation (Information Technology Act 2000) and restrict freedom of expression. While the Kerala High Court has granted discharge to the NBA and LiveLaw, no other court has done so. The Delhi Supreme Court has refused to offer interim protection, the Bombay Supreme Court has postponed the matter in light of the government’s motion to transfer the Supreme Court, and the Madras Supreme Court has notified the government, with the next hearing scheduled for Nov. .
Here is a list of the cases pending in various courts with links for reporting:
- Digital News Publishers Association & anr v. Union of India & anr: Madras Supreme Court, petition.
- TM Krishna v. Union of India & anr: Hearing scheduled for July 14th. Petition.
- The News Broadcasters Association against the Department of Electronics and Information Technology: Kerala High Court, suspension of coercive measures granted.
- Foundation for Independent Journalism vs. Union of India: Delhi High Court petition denied twice.
- Live Law Media Private Limited & ors v Union of India & anr: Kerala High Court, petition, suspension of coercive measures granted.
- Sanjay Kumar Singh v. Union of India & ors: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
- Quint Digital Media Limited & anr v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
- Press Trust of India v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
- AGIJ Promotion of Nineteenonea Media Pvt Ltd & anr against Union of India & anr: Bombay High Court, petition, trial alleged postponed with regard to the transfer application.