'Only Third Judge Can Decide On Interim Relief': Centre Tells Bombay HC On Kunal Kamra's Plea On Fact-Check Unit Stay

'Only Third Judge Can Decide On Interim Relief': Centre Tells Bombay HC On Kunal Kamra's Plea On Fact-Check Unit Stay

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.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, February 08, 2024, 12:58 PM IST
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'Only Third Judge Can Decide On Interim Relief': Centre Tells Bombay HC On Kunal Kamra's Plea On Fact-Check Unit Stay |

Mumbai: The divergence of views by the division bench of the Bombay High Court on the amendment to the Information Technology Rules ought to be treated as divergence of views on the question of interim relief also and only the third judge can take a call on the question of not notifying the Fact Check Unit (FCU), the Central government has said.

The Centre has filed a written submission before high court opposing the application by standup comedian Kunal Kamra seeking to extend the statement of the central government not to notify the Fact Check Unit. alternatively, he sought a stay order from the high court on notifying the FCU.

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.

Split Verdict By Bombay HC

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.

Hence, Kamra filed an application seeking extension of this till the Chief Justice appoints a third judge to decide on the issue.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, insisted that the bench has delivered its verdict and hence it cannot look into the issue of interim relief.

The final opinions rendered by the judges of the division bench in law is “unalterable and cannot be altered” in a subsequently filed application for interim stay after the pronouncement of the final opinions, the Centre has added.

Hence, Centre points out, that while pronouncing their opinions, the bench had left it open for the third judge to decide the question of continuance of interim relief.

In view to ensure sufficient time is available with the Chief Justice to assign the matter to the third judge, Mehta had made a statement to extend the statement for 10 days. “As such, any pre-emption of view of the Hon'ble third judge by passing any order in the instant application for injunction would neither be permissible nor proper,” it adds.

The Centre has emphasised that the Rule in question operates against the intermediaries and that the petitioners are not affected by it. Further, no intermediary has chosen to come before the court directly challenging the vires of the Rule. Further, stated that even the effect upon the intermediary would be at a stage when someone files legal proceedings against the intermediary.

“There are no consequences contemplated against any of the petitioners except some broad and vague allegations/apprehensions of chilling effect expressed by the petitioner, which can only be a consideration for final hearing and not for interim relief. This is especially true when there is already one view deciding the rule to be intra-vires,” the Centre underlined.

The HC hear the matter on Thursday, February 8.

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