Friday, 3 June 2022

Information Technology Rules, 2021


In the case of In Re: Prajwala Letter dated 18.2.2015 Videos of Sexual Violence and Recommendations, the Supreme Court has observed the need for the formation of guidelines to curd the videos and images of child pornography, rape from being published and circulated from the website and other platforms hosting them. Related discussions had taken place in the Parliament. Due to the COVID situation, the number of users of the OTT Platforms increased and as there is no censor certification board to limit the content on OTT Platforms as it has for the Television and Theatre Industry, a lot of adult content was released through OTT Platforms. Due to which the OTT Platforms were brought under the ambit of Information and Broadcasting Ministry in 2021. The Information and Technology Rules, 2021 were framed with an objective of regulating these kinds of issues. These rules provide for a mechanism for the grievances of the users of these platforms. They also provide the right for the government to prevent any illegal content or the content which can cause affects the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, threatens the security of the state, negatively influencing the friendly relationships with the foreign nations, or which may promote violence or disturbs the public order.

The protection provided under the Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, will not be applicable, if these new rules are not followed. These rules will have a huge impact on the intermediaries and these rules are mainly talking about the obligations and liabilities of the intermediaries. Earlier, the intermediaries were not held accountable and the one who uploads the content was held liable, and this is not the case with these rules.

But, many news channels have filed a lot of cases before the Courts against the Information Technology Rules, 2021. One of them is News Broadcasters Association before the High Court of Kerala. It is decided that the other cases will be merged to this case and jointly heard by the Supreme Court together. They filed the case stating that these rules violate the Articles 14 and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India, which are the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. They further argued that the restrictions imposed by these rules are more than the reasonable restrictions which are allowed by the Constitution of India. The Information Technology Rules, 2021 are against the Information Technology Act, 2000, as it prescribes that the Government has no power to decide the content of the news that is broadcasted by the news channels. These rules have given more powers to the Executive Body, which is against the objectives of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and hence, these rules are ultra vires the Information Technology Act, 2000. The High Court has issued interim orders stating that, no orders should be issued against the News Broadcasting Association for now and no coercive steps to be taken by the Government against them. The final judgment is still pending and the author hopes the judgment to be in favor of the News Broadcasting Association and Others.

Information Technology Rules, 2021 by Velanati Jyothirmai @ Lex Cliq

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