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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 24, June 10, 2023

Press Statement regarding petition challenging amendments to IT Rules | Editors Guild of India (June 7, 2023)

Friday 9 June 2023


Editors Guild of India


June 7, 2023

In a petition filed by the Editors Guild of India challenging the amendments to IT Rules, 2021, the Bombay High Court issues notice and extends stay on the Rules till July 10

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 (IT Amendment Rules, 2023) were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on April 6, 2023. Along with various regulations concerning online gaming, the amendment also grants authority to a "fact check unit of the Central Government" to categorise and remove any online content pertaining to "any business of the Central Government" that is deemed "fake, false, or misleading.”

The effect of the Impugned Rule is that the moment the “fact check unit of the Central Government” disputes the truth/veracity of a news item regarding “any business of the Central Government”, the fact of such disagreement alone obliterates the publisher’s freedom to publish and citizen’s right to access such information.

The Editors Guild had raised its concerns in its statement dated April 7, 2023, stating that “amendments to the IT Rules will have deeply adverse implications for press freedom in the country”.

The Guild has now filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court challenging the constitutional validity of this provision of the IT Rules Amendment, 2023 for being ultra vires the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000), and violating the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Bombay High Court directed the Government to file its Reply to this petition by June 20 and has listed the matters for final hearing on July 6 and 7, 2023. The undertaking provided by the Government not to constitute its fact check unit has been extended to July 10, 2023.

The Editors Guild of India deeply appreciates the help of the legal team that has spearheaded this effort. The petition was drafted by Advocate Mr. Shadan Farasat along with Advocates Natasha Maheshwari and Hrishika Jain. The petition was filed by the Bombay counsel Bimal Rajshekhar. The Guild further thanks Senior Advocate Mr. Kapil Sibal, who has been overseeing this matter and who appeared on behalf of the Guild in the Bombay High Court.

Thanks, and regards,

Seema Mustafa, President

Anant Nath, General Secretary

Shriram Pawar, Treasurer

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