The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has in the Bombay High Court opposed the pleas seeking a stay on the implementation of the Centre's new IT rules, saying that it might lead to the spread of "fake news and legally prohibited content."
The Centre said that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, that several media houses have sought a stay on until the matter is sub judice, are only to create a "level-playing field" between the online and other media.
"It is further well settled that merely because a statute comes up for examination and some arguable point is raised, which persuades the courts to consider the controversy, the legislative will, should not normally be put under suspension pending such consideration," the Centre said in an affidavit filed by Amarendra Singh, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The Centre's affidavit was filed in reply to a petition filed by AGIJ Promotion Of Nineteenonea Media Pvt Ltd, the company that owns The Leaflet, and a PIL filed by journalist Nikhil Wagle.
What Centre Said in the Affidavit
The Centre indicated that in order to implement such a stay, it must first be proved that the legislation is unconstitutional.
The Centre told the Bombay High Court that over 97 percent of the digital news media publishers have complied to the rules, including The Leaflet, which is one of the petitioners.
"In respect of the implementation of the Rules, it is submitted that over 1,800 digital media publishers, with over 97% of them being publishers of news and current affairs content, have furnished information to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting under Rule 18," the ministry said, adding that most of them have established grievance redressal mechanisms in accordance with the provisions of the new rules.
"Regarding the claims of excessive compliance burden under the Rules for attending to a large number of grievances within a timeframe of 15 days, it is submitted that till date the Government has not received any representation from any particular digital news publisher citing the exact number of grievances received by it relating to the Code of Ethics and the difficulty faced by it in the redressal of grievances," it said.
The Centre further said that there was no need of urgency in implementing the stay which is being sought by several petitioners and doing so will only lead to spread of fake news.
"It is also submitted that an interim stay on the implementation or operation of Part-III of the Rules would render the legally established institutional framework for digital media publishers inoperative, leading to an environment of impunity, and concomitant spread of fake news and legally prohibited content," it said.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni heard the on Monday, after which Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh had sought time for two days to file a short affidavit.
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