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Rules go beyond scope of parent Act : Pratidhvani challenges IT rules 2021 before Karnataka HC

Truth Pro Foundation India, a non-governmental organisation that operates Kannada news portal Pratidhvani, has challenged the government’s Information Technology Rules, 2021 which brings digital news and current affairs publishers under regulation. This was reported by LiveLaw.

Filed in the Karnataka High Court, the the Foundation’s petition argues that the new rules are ultra vires (beyond the scope) to the parent IT Act, 2000, since it sets up classification of new entities, that is, news and current affairs publishers.

  • The IT Act does not deal with digital news media as a separate kind of entity and does not permit their regulation, the petition states. The government cannot set up a parallel adjudicatory mechanism parallel to courts of law, as it is completely beyond the scope of the parent law.
  • The Rules have been drafted under Section 87, but the rule-making power granted to the government under this section is with respect to intermediaries and not publishers of news and current affairs content or of online curated content.
  • Section 69A is a limited and specific emergent power as the Supreme Court laid down in Shreya Singhal. The rules cannot purport to regulate digital news websites, while also extending the application of the Cable Television Networks Act and the Press Council Act.
  • The Rules also outlaw content on the basis of vague and subjective grounds, which the Supreme Court already struck down in the Shreya Singhal judgment. Imposing a code of ethics that has vague conditions such as ‘good taste’, and ‘decency’ is not envisaged in the parent law.
  • According to The Wire, the petition says it is only challenging the IT Rules as they affect digital news portals, and not OTT platforms or other entities.

Pratidhvani is the fourth publication to legally challenge the new rules, apart from The Quint, LiveLaw, and the Foundation of Independent Journalism and The News Minute editor Dhanya Rajendran.

In March, the Delhi High Court issued notice to the central government in response to FIJ and Rajendran’s petition, which had also argued that the Rules go beyond the scope of the parent law. In its petition before the Delhi HC, The Quint argued that the Rules enable the government to virtually dictate content to digital news portals, and squarely violate media freedom.

LiveLaw secured interim protection from coercive action under the rules, after it filed a petition against the subordinate law before the Kerala High Court. Medianama

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