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Vacation Bench of Delhi High Court Refuses to Grant Interim Relief to Digital News Portals, Re-Notifies Application for Roster Bench

INTERIM RELIEF TO DIGITAL NEWS PORTALS

The vacation bench of the Delhi High Court comprising Justices C Hari Shankar and Subramonium Prasad, refused a stay on the implementation of the IT Rules sought in applications by the Quint and the Wire, stating that it was prima facie not inclined to grant any interim relief for actions against non-compliance with the IT rules.

The bench said, "The matter is pending before the regular division bench, no stay was granted. They are only implementing the notification on which there is no stay. There is no question of interim relief."

Justice Shankar further added that, "Let me make it very clear. All they are doing is implementing the notification. You have only made out the case that they should not have taken coercive action. It is not your case that the implementation is against the Rules."

The court added that as the matter is pending before a division bench and no relief was granted there, it would renotify their application for interim relief for hearing by roster bench.

The petition filed by Ritu Kapur, the Director and Co-Founder of 'The Quint', along with the 'Foundation for Independent Journalism'(a non-profit company which owns 'The Wire'), Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'The News Minute' Dhanya Rajendran and Founding Editor of 'The Wire' MK Venu, through Advocates Prasanna S and Vinoothna Vinjam contends that the IT Rules 2021 are ultra vires of the Constitution and prayed the rules be declared Unconstitutional on the grounds of being violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21.The petition states that the Rules amount to an "overreach" by incorporating the vague and arbitrary norms under the Press Council Act and the Programme Code, that too by way of subordinate legislation, in order to vest "draconian powers and control" with the executive, contends the petition. 

Earlier in May, the Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh had adjourned the hearing of the petitions to Aug 4 on grounds of non-urgency

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on 25.02.2021, notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 along with the Coe of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards in Relation to digital/ Online Media, notified under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, proposing to ‘empower ordinary users’ against entities of serious criminality and intends to combat the spread of fake news, instances of ‘revenge porn’ and violence perpetrated against women online. 


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