Clicky

IT Rules draconian law on free speech, says plea in HC

Division bench was hearing petition filed by legal news website The Leaflet and a PIL plea by journalist Nikhil Wagle

The new Information Technology (IT) Rules sought to monitor and censor speech on the Internet and was the most draconian law on free speech of recent times, the Bombay High Court was informed on Monday.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a petition filed by legal news website The Leaflet and a public interest litigation plea by journalist Nikhil Wagle challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules for “violating” the fundamental rights under the Constitution.

Senior advocate Darius Khambata representing The Leaflet argued that the Rules went far beyond the permissible restrictions of freedom of speech and freedom of trade for digital news publisher. He said, “These Rules seek to effectively monitor and censor speech on the Internet by a different ministry, the most draconian law on free speech of recent times. They have nothing to do with regulating or recognizing the e-transactions on the internet. These rules are so vague, so draconian that they have a chilling effect on free speech, so much so that they have to be stayed immediately”.

Advocate Abhay Nevagi, appearing for Mr. Wagle, said he was challenging all the parts of the Rules. There were no provisions in the IT Act to make such wide rules. The Rules was in violation of Article 51(c) of the Constitution that was to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another; and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration. He wanted the Rules declared illegal and arbitrary.

The hearing will continue on August 10 when the additional solicitor general will argue on behalf of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.