Bombay HC Appoints Justice Chandurkar As 3rd Judge To Decide On IT Rules Split Verdict & FCU Extension

Bombay HC Appoints Justice Chandurkar As 3rd Judge To Decide On IT Rules Split Verdict & FCU Extension

Meanwhile, the Centre notified Justices Patel and Gokhale that it won't notify the FCU until Justice Chandurkar addresses petitions for extending interim relief.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, February 08, 2024, 06:09 PM IST
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Bombay HC Appoints Justice Chandurkar As 3rd Judge To Decide On IT Rules Split Verdict & FCU Extension |

The Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya of the Bombay High Court, on Thursday, passed an order appointing Justice AS Chandurkar as the third judge to decide on the split verdict delivered by a bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale on petitions challenging the amendment to the Information Technology Act with regard to setting up of Fact Check Unit (FCU) by standup comedian Kunal Kamra and others. 

Meanwhile, Centre informed the bench of Justices Patel and Gokhakle its statement that it will not notify the FCU till the third reference judge, Justice Chandurkar, takes up the applications filed by petitioners seeking extension of interim relief for hearing. 

The IT Act amendments

The Centre amended the IT Act last year which empowered the Central government to flag “fake, false and misleading” news pertaining to the government on social media through FCU.

On  January 31, the bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale had delivered a split verdict. Justice Patel ruled against the government and struck down the amendment whereas Justice Gokhale had upheld its validity. At the time, Centre said it will continue its statement of not notifying the FCU for 10 more days, which is till February 10. 

Kamra's petition

Hence, Kamra and others filed an application seeking extension of this till the Chief Justice appoints a third judge to decide on the issue. On Thursday CJ passed an administrative order appointing Justice Chandurkar. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had made a statement the Court in April 2023 that the formation of FCUs would not be notified. The statement had continued till the judgement would be delivered. However, when a split  verdict was delivered, Mehta said the statement will continue foir 10 days more. 

The bench agreed with senior counsel Navroz Seervai's argument that they will have to reassemble to pronounce the judgment of majority after the third judge gives his opinion. 

The bench also said they have “agreed to disagree” on the point of extending interim relief to the petitioners on whether previous statements should to continue till third judge renders his opinion. 

The bench emphasised that they had never granted any relief and the statement to not notify the FCU was made by Mehta on instructions from Centre. 

“The interim applications in our view, need to be decided by the reference judge as well since we are not between ourselves, in agreement on the continuance of the previous status. We specifically state that even today we have not agreed on the continuance of ad-interim or interim relief, at least not beyond the period with which Mehta has agreed to extend,” the judge noted in its order. 

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