On 25th February 2021, the centre announced the new IT(Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code)Rules 2021. These rules have been framed under the Information Technology Act 2000.
The 2021 rules have introduced a new three tier content regulation mechanism and a new code of ethics. They will also regulate internet intermediaries, Over-The-Top(OTT) platforms and digital news media.
These rules invited criticism from a lot of people especially from the journalists, activists and lawyers who feared the executive control these rules would bring over the digital media. The rules are looked upon as a way to restrict the freedom of press through regulation and censorship.
Concerned with the above issues, Foundation for Independent Journalist’, a trust which owns ‘The Wire’ filed a petition in Delhi High Court, challenging the validity of these rules.
Sidharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of ‘The Wire’, said “On a quick reading, the burdens being placed on publishers of digital news go beyond the basic restrictions on freedom of speech (and thus freedom of the press) envisaged by Article 19 and are therefore ultra vires of the Indian Constitution”.
A couple of people have dismissed these fears and criticism arising against the new rules. The Union Minister of IT and Law, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the fears are baseless and the rules are meant to protect the people.
While the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Amit Khare has said that the people concerned about freedom of expression being crushed under dictatorship are looking at a problem that does not exist.
The petition in the Delhi High Court will be heard by Justice DN Patel who is currently heading a Division Bench.