In a setback to the Centre’s Narendra Modi government, the Bombay High Court on Saturday stayed the implementation of the new IT rules saying that ‘people would be starved of the liberty’ if the new rules were enforced.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni passed the interim order after hearing petitions filed by a legal news website and journalist Nikhil Wagle.
“People would be starved of the liberty of thought & feel suffocated to exercise their right of freedom of speech & expression, if they’re made to live in present times of content regulation on the internet with the Code of Ethics hanging over their head as the Sword of Damocles,” the bench said.
According to Livelaw, the high court added that the constant fear of being hauled up for contravention of the Code of Ethics is a distinct possibility now.
It added, “With the IT Rules Rules in place, one would have to think twice before criticizing those in public service of the nation – Bombay High Court while staying the “Code of Ethics” enforcement.
Allowing the operation of the #ITRules2021 in its form & substance to operate would result in the writer/editor/publisher standing the risk of being punished & sanctioned, should the inter-departmental committee be not in favour of criticism of any public figure.”
The Modi government had come under considerable criticism for the new IT rules that journalists felt were enacted to stifle the digital media platforms. The government is accused of completely controlling the TV channels and newspapers. The only criticism faced by the government was coming from digital news platforms. With the new IT rules in place, the government was accused of using intimidation to stop digital news platforms from carrying stories critical of the ruling party of the government.
Several websites and journalists had moved courts across India against the implementation of the new IT rules.
The 2021Rules are, thus, manifestly unreasonable and go beyond the IT Act, its aims and provisions : Bombay High Court.#ITRules2021
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 14, 2021
The Bombay high court said that the ‘indeterminate and wide terms of the Rules bring about a chilling effect qua the right of freedom of speech and expression of writers/editors/publishers because they can be hauled up for anything if such committee so wishes.’ It said that the ‘2021 Rules are, thus, manifestly unreasonable and go beyond the IT Act, its aims and provisions.’