Among other things, the new IT rules require news organizations to appoint a complaints officer to review and process complaints from readers or viewers of online news.

The Delhi Supreme Court denied interim relief to media organizations The Wire and The Quint for coercive action against non-compliance with the new information technology rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) in 2021, according to a report released today Live Law. The government had requested more time to file an affidavit against their petition questioning the constitutionality of IT rules, whereupon senior attorney Nitya Ramakrishnan, who represents the media portals, asked for a restraining order pending the next hearing.

The division bank, consisting of Chief Justice DN Patel and Judge Jyoti Singh, accepted the government’s motion and put the matter up for a hearing on August 20, but denied the petitioners any discharge. However, the petitioners are free to request an urgent hearing if action is taken against them in the meantime.

During the hearing, the additional attorney general Chetan Sharma asked why they (Quint and The Wire) could not provide the information required under the new IT rules, as 1,200 digital media houses had already done so. In addition Ramakrishnan said that it was not a question of voting and that “we questioned the rules, they did not”. “What they are trying to do is in the face of a Supreme Court ruling that government control of the media is unacceptable, “she said, according to the report, adding that the information the government is seeking is already public.

According to Ramakrishnan, she was ready today to argue on “residence and main motions”; However, the government had not responded.

AltNews – whose request by the parent company PravdaMedia to challenge the IT rules was also heard today – was also denied any injunction.

The online news organizations had previously been denied discharge by a holiday bank on June 29. The Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), which runs The Wire, has teamed with The News Minute’s Dhanya Rajendran to contest the IT rules on the grounds that they are ultra vires of the Constitution of India and go beyond the scope of the Information Technology Act. In his petition, The Quint questioned the rules as they would allow the government to virtually dictate conditions to news portals.

According to the new IT rules, news organizations must appoint a complaints officer who responds to complaints from viewers and consumers, and be members of a self-regulatory body set up according to government standards, in which a reader can object to the decision from the first complaint if they are dissatisfied.

Eventually, an interdepartmental committee would be set up to censor such content, and all online news organizations would have to adhere to government-sponsored ethical standards that previously only applied to television and print organizations.

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