Bombay HC To Pronounce Verdict On Jan 15 In Comedian Kunal Kamra's Pleas Challenging Amended IT Rules

Bombay HC To Pronounce Verdict On Jan 15 In Comedian Kunal Kamra's Pleas Challenging Amended IT Rules

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that his earlier statement, that until the judgment in the case was delivered, the Centre would not notify the Fact Checking Unit (FCU), will continue.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, January 05, 2024, 11:35 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court said on Friday that it would pronounce its verdict on January 15, 2024 on a batch of petitions challenging the recently-amended Information Technology (IT) Rules against fake news pertaining to the government on social media.

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale had reserved the verdict, on September 29, on the petitions after a lengthy hearing.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that his earlier statement, that until the judgment in the case was delivered, the Centre would not notify the Fact Checking Unit (FCU), will continue. As per the amended Rules, an FCU is to be set up to identify and flag off fake, false and misleading facts on social media.

The Union government promulgated certain amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, on April 6.

About Kunal Kamra's Plea Challenging New IT Rules

The HC heard a batch of petitions challenging the amended IT rules filed by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, the Editors Guild of India and the Association of Indian Magazines seeking directions against the framing of the rules calling them “arbitrary, unconstitutional” and that the same would have a “chilling effect” on the fundamental rights of citizens.

They contended that the government was trying to be the sole arbiter and would through these rules try to curtail citizens' freedom of speech and the right to expression. They sought direction from the court to declare the amended rules unconstitutional and direct the government to restrain from acting against any individual under the rules.

However, the Centre said it was not against any kind of opinion, criticism, satire or humour, adding the rules were to only proscribe or prohibit peddling of fake, false and misleading facts on social media.

The amendment to Rule 3 provides that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology can notify a fact-checking body which is empowered to identify and tag what it considers false or fake online news with respect to any activity of the Central government. Against such content identified by this unit, intermediaries, such as social media companies, will have to act or risk losing their "safe harbour" protections in Section 79 of the IT Act, which allows intermediaries to avoid liabilities for what third parties post on their websites.

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