Madras HC notifies Centre on petition challenging new IT rules

The Madras High Court has issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by Digital News Publishers Association, comprising of 13 media outlets, challenging the constitutional validity of the new Information Technology Rules, 2021.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy admitted the plea and tagged along with another plea by noted Carnatic musician, T.M. Krishna on similar lines.

The court also granted interim relief for the association, allowing it to approach the court if any coercive or arm twisting action is taken under the rules, particularly under provisions 12,14, and 16 of the rules.

Senior advocate P.S. Raman, appearing for the petitioner, contended that two provisions of the rules were creating major problems for the digital news platforms. He said that in particular Rule 16 is an omnibus provision that gives power to the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to block public access to any digital information.

He sought that the court passes an interim order restraining the Information and Broadcasting Ministry from taking any action under the rules pending disposal of the plea.

The bench, however, refused to grant any interim order staying the operation of the rule as no adverse action has been initiated against the petitioner as of now.

It also said that if any such adverse action is initiated against the petitioner, they will be at the liberty to apply for interim relief in these proceedings.

The court adjourned the hearing by three weeks.

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