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IT Rules: Delhi High Court Plea Seeks Striking Down of Rule 3, 4; Centre Issued Notice

The Delhi High Court on Thursday issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking direction to striking down Rule 3 and 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, as unconstitutional and ultra vires the IT Act, 2000.

A bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh on Thursday sought a response from the Union of India through the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology and slated the matter for further hearing in the matter on September 13th.

The petitioner Uday Bedi, a practising lawyer, challenged the impugning Rules 3 and 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which have been brought into force from February 25, 2021, as a user of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram etc.

It is as such directly impacted by the coming into force of the Impugned Rules as the same have far-reaching consequences on the fundamental rights of the Petitioner guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950, i.e. the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy, the plea stated.

The petition stated that by the coming in force of the Impugned Rules as various clients of the petitioner are now vary of contacting him on the Social Media platforms such as Whatsapp, Telegram etc. which are very commonly used for discussing sensitive details regarding their cases in view of the deep and pervasive powers arbitrarily handed over to private companies operating the social media platforms/intermediaries under the Impugned Rules.

It further stated that the Impugned Rules are liable to be struck down as the same has been made in bad faith and in disregard of the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances that exists in a democratic form of government.

The Impugned Rules, the Respondent has given private SMIs the power to entertain and act upon complaints received by private persons, as well as on a voluntary basis to delete access to any information available on their platform if the conditions prescribed in Rule 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(d) are met.

The power to put the Petitioner and other users under constant surveillance also bear no rational nexus with the objective of the IT Act, 2000 and is therefore in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. IT Act, 2000 does not in any manner give sweeping powers to the intermediaries, therefore, the Rules go beyond the scope of the IT Act, 2000 and sub-delegate powers which the Respondent was not authorised to making the rules ultra vires the IT Act, 2000, plea read.

There are several petitions also examined by the Delhi High Court challenging various sections of newly-amended IT Rules introduced by the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology including the Plea of numerous Digital News Portals and Individuals.

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