The Rajya Sabha is likely to discuss a statutory motion against the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules. Chairman Venkaiah Naidu has admitted the motion moved by LJD member MV Shreyams Kumar.
Kumar has demanded that the Rules should be annulled. Kumar told BusinessLine that the Rules are against freedom of press and will impact the traditional media too. “The Centre claims that the Rules are aimed at social media. But according to this Rule, a joint secretary of the Centre can block a website. The media houses in the country are concerned about the Rules,” he said. Statutory motion against Rules is a rarely used Parliamentary tool. In the last two decades, such a motion came up in the upper House only on a few occasions, the latest being that moved by Kerala Finance Minister KN Balagopal against the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority Rules in 2010. When admitted, a statutory motion against Rules must be taken up for discussion within 30 working days of the House.
The Press Trust of India had recently moved the Supreme Court questioning the Rules.
Kumar, Managing Director of Mathrubhumi, who is also a Board Member of the PTI and former Vice-President of News Broadcasters Association, said mechanisms such as the Press Council and News Broadcasting Standards Authority are independent agencies to address complaints on content.
“But according to this set of Rules, a joint secretary of the IT Ministry can adjudicate on the matter of a content published in a website, even in a news website. It is not an independent body and the officer can do anything on his or her whims on fancies,” Kumar said. According to Kumar, in the last one year, only eleven per cent of the Bills are scrutinised by Parliament or its panel so scrutinising a set of Rules that are against the existing laws and the Constitution is a must.
According to the Centre, the rules “substantially empower the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievances and command accountability in case of infringement of their rights.”
Kumar said there are Constitutional provisions to deal with libellous content. “Our opposition is not against regulation, but there should be an independent agency to look at this. This Rule is worse than Emergency era censorship. This is anti Constitutional,” Kumar added. The Hindu BusinessLine