On 22nd July, a Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of the Delhi High Court issued a notice in a plea that challenged the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
The Bench has sought the reply of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the present notice has been made returnable by 13th September.
This plea was moved by Advocate Uday Bedi and brought into question Rule 3 and 4 of the IT Rules stating that they give extensive powers to the Social Media Intermediaries to voluntarily remove access to information based on the complaints received by them from private individuals as they consider suitable.
It was contended by the plea that the rules attempted to overrule the Supreme Court decision in Shreya Singhal’s judgment.
The plea submitted, “While giving powers in excess of the powers given under the parent legislation, to voluntarily remove access to information that does not conform to Rule 3(1)(b), the Impugned Rules have allowed the SMIs to place the users of these platforms under constant surveillance which is a gross breach of the right to privacy which has been recognised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1.”
It was also submitted by the plea that the rules are irrational and arbitrary since no procedure has been prescribed for the appointment of a Grievance Officer or Chief Compliance Officer by such Social Media Intermediaries and Significant SMIs while according them with the responsibility of disposing of complaints.
The plea added, “It is most pertinent to note that the procedure for disposing of a complaint made under the Impugned Rules contains no provision for the author of the information to be heard prior to the information being shared by him over the SMI platform effectively, depriving him of his fundamental rights without even being heard. As such, this provision is extremely draconian and amounts to a gross violation of Article 14.”
The plea further contended, “Impugned Rules are anti-thetical to the fundamental principles of democracy which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution, where the State agencies are liable to be transparent and the citizens are allowed various rights and freedoms.”