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Amended IT Rules lack the necessary safeguards for the protection of satire: Bombay HC

Issue: – The court was hearing Kunal Kamra’s plea, challenging rule 3(i)(II)(C) of the amended IT Rules, 2023, where the task of identifying fake news regarding government policies, etc. has been allotted to the Government’s fact-checking unit.

Facts: – As per the plea which was filed by Kunal Kamra, the amended IT rules, specify that the intermediaries (social media) are supposed to make reasonable efforts to check that the users do not share misinformation on the platform as well as any misleading information ‘that regarding any business of the central government is identified as fake or false’. It was claimed by Kamra that he is a political satirist and the said rules could lead to his content being blocked or his account being suspended or deactivated, arbitrarily.

Arguments: – Amidst the ongoing hearing of the matter, it was requested by ASG Anil Singh that the matter should be adjourned till the next week when the solicitor general would be appearing for the same. In response to the same, Senior Advocate Navroz Seervai, appearing for Kamra made the statement that the affidavit that has been filed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is “facile” and the motive of the government to not let people scrutinize its actions is quite clear. Any media post found doing so will be labeled as false. He also added that though the notification for the fact-checking unit is yet to come, the “chilling effect” can be felt as people are scared, something which should not be happening in a democracy. He lastly added that the amendment cannot be pedestalled with what we call “reasonable restrictions” under Article 19.

Reasoning: The Bombay HC gave the reasoning that the amended IT rules lack the necessary safeguards. The affidavit filed by the union says that the satires will be exempted but the same is not mentioned in the rules, so even if it is ‘well-intentioned’, the necessary safeguards are absent.

Judgment: – The bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale decided that the matter cannot be adjourned beyond Thursday for ad interim reliefs.

Related Provision: – Section 3(i)(II)((c) of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023

Case Title: – Kunal Kamra v. Union of India | WP(L)/9792/2023

Written By:- Shianjany Pradhan

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