The Supreme Court on Friday, 9 July, transferred all petitions challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) in Delhi and Kerala high courts and transferred them to be heard by an appropriate bench on 16 July, reported Live Law India.
The apex court bench, comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna, tagged the Centre’s petition Justice for Rights Foundation vs Union of India with Special Leave Petition and posted it before an appropriate bench for review.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought a stay on the proceedings in the high court, pointing out that the there were several cases pending before the court challenging the IT rules, reported Bar & Bench.
However, the top court did not entertain the plea and stated, “We will not pass that order today. We are just tagging and listing before the appropriate bench for 16 July.”
The transfer petition by the Centre was filed in April after several petitions, including by The Quint, were filed against the new IT Rules 2021.
According to the report by Bar & Bench, the Centre contented that if individual petitions were decided independently by high courts, "it could result in a likelihood of conflict between the decisions of the Hon'ble high courts and this Hon'ble court.”
The Quint on 19 March had moved the Delhi High Court, challenging the regulation of digital news portals under the IT Rules 2021.
Calling the regulation of digital news under the IT Act framework "unconstitutional", the petitioner organisation believed that the new rules have a “chilling effect on media freedom”.
Earlier, the Kerala High Court had provided interim protection to LiveLaw India from any coercive action under Part III of the rules. This decision came just days after the Delhi High Court issued a notice in a similar plea moved by The Wire.