Thirteen media outlets under the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) have moved the Madras High Court against the new IT Rules, 2021.
The petition has contended that these rules violate Articles 14 (equality), 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution (right to freedom of speech and expression and right to profession).
They said the new IT Rules seek to legislate the conduct of entities which are outside the scope of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and further seek to curb the freedom of speech and the freedom of press.
Hearing the application for interim orders, a bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy recorded the petitioners’ submission that there is “sufficient basis for the petitioners…apprehension that coercive and arm-twisting action may be taken” under such provisions and sought an order seeking restraint of operation of Rules 12, 14 and 16 Rule 16 of the Rules give the Secretary, I&B, emergency powers to block, as an interim measure, public access to any information or a part of it without giving the intermediary hosting the said information any opportunity of hearing.
Provision 12 offers options for one or more self-regulatory body of publishers, while 14 says that I&B Ministry shall constitute an inter-departmental committee with representatives from other Ministries.
Formed in 2018, the DNPA includes: the ABP Network, Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar Corp, Express Network, HT Digital Streams, IE Online Media Services, Jagran Prakashan, Lokmat Media, NDTV Convergence, TV Today Network, The Malayala Manorama, Times Internet Limited and Ushodaya Enterprises. Mukund Padmanabhan, the former Editor of The Hindu and The Hindu Business Line, is a co-petitioner with DNPA.
The DNPA argued that since it represented only traditional and legacy media outlets in print and broadcasting, which now have an online or digital presence as an extension of their main arms, the association should not be thought of as representing news and content publishers exclusively present only digitally.