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IT Rules 2021 empower digital users to seek redressal: Centre

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, was framed after feeling the compelling need to have a framework to deal with messages that have become viral.

It has resulted in riots, mob lynching or other heinous crimes, including those concerning dignity of women and sexual abuse of children, the Union government informed Madras High Court on Friday in response to the challenges raised against the rules.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu, before which the lengthy affidavit was filed countering the challenges raised by Carnatic musician TM Krishna and Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), adjourned the case for further hearing to September 14.

The Union government through an officer from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) submitted that the Rules substantially empowered the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievances and command accountability in case of infringement of their rights.

The counter cited to the calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on the misuse of social media and spread of fake news, and an ad-hoc committee of the Upper House recommending the identification of the first originator after studying the alarming issue of pornography on social media, which ultimately led to the modifying of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011, to include the ability to trace the sender of the message shared on end-to-end encryption platforms, the content of which has come to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

It also contended that Right to Privacy, though a fundamental right, was not unlimited and absolute. Also, the executive was not over empowered to take down content; it could be disabled only through a court order or order by the appropriate government. The IT Rules, 2021, neither contained any unlawful restrictions nor imposes any burdensome compliances upon the intermediaries affecting the ease of business, the counter said.

DNPA, comprising several of the media companies in the country, including both the print and TV media, had contended that the Rules sought to curb the freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of press by seeking to usher in an era of surveillance and fear, thereby resulting in self-censorship which curtails the fundamental rights.

TM Krishna had challenged the validity of the guidelines on the basis that it offended his right as an artiste and cultural commentator by imposing a chilling effect on free speech and by infringing on his Right to Privacy. DT Next

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