New Delhi: The Delhi HC has refused to grant protection from coercive action to digital media portals on Wednesday. The centre has already filed a plea to transfer the petition challenging the new IT rules to the Supreme Court.
The New IT rules demand that social media and streaming companies take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations. The court adjourned the pleas by The Wire, Quint Digital Media Ltd, and Pravda Media Foundation till August 20.
The 2021 IT Rules regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, over-the-top (OTT) platforms, and social media intermediaries.
The Delhi High Court had earlier issued notices and sought responses of the Centre on the petitions by the digital media portals. But the bench refused to pass any interim order. The court has directed the Centre to file a counter-affidavit and said that an interim order will be considered at a later stage.
A Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh asked Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee if a transfer petition has been preferred or not, to which he answered 'yes'.
Appearing for the digital news portals, Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan urged the Delhi High Court to pass an order for interim protection for the time being because the union government has not yet replied to the petition filed by the digital media portals. She added that this is the first step in submitting to the discipline (of regulation of content by the government).
Adv. Nitya stated that the central government's conduct was "totally in the face of the Supreme Court decision that government regulation of the content of media is unacceptable".
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma argued that "1700 digital media have already submitted information" as per the IT Rules. To which Ms. Ramakrishnana responded that it is not a matter of voice-vote and asserted that the digital media portals before the court had preferred to challenge the new IT rules.
The petition by Quint Digital Media Ltd and its director and co-founder Ritu Kapur has challenged the constitutional validity of the IT Rules under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The petition said that creating a differential classification by way of subordinate legislation, when not contemplated by the parent IT Act is an overreach by itself. The media firm alleged that the move has been done to specifically target digital news portals.
The media firm pointed out that the new rules will be subjecting digital news portals to an unprecedented regulatory burden and State interference. It also said that no other form of news publication is subjected to such regulations.