The Karnataka High Court on Monday, July 26, 2021, issued a notice to the Union of India on a petition filed seeking declaration of Rule 3 (1) (d) and Rule 7 of the Information Technology (Intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics code, 2021), as ultra vires and unconstitutional and strike down the rules as it grants executive powers without adequate safeguards.
A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and NS Sanjay Gowda while hearing the petition issued the notice to respondents returnable on September 6. It directed the respondents to file their statement of objection to the petition by September 3.
The petition states that the Fundamental Rights provided by the Constitution of India are uniformly being upheld by all the organs- Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, but time and again contrary measures taken and amendments made by these organs affect the Fundamental Rights. One such recent amendment made by the Government is the IT rules 2021, which is in violation of Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech and Expression to the citizens.
It is also claimed in the petition that “respondents under the garb of regulating media and bringing in certain checks and balances want to indirectly curb, restrict and prevent the free circulation of information which is pivotal for the growth of any democracy.”
Moreover, the petitioner has said that the general principle of law is that special law will prevail over the general law. However, rule 7 of the IT Rules 2021 has made an express provision that in event of any offences committed by defaulting parties the provisions of the IT Act 2000 as well as various offences of Indian Penal Code can also be registered.
The petitioner has sought for suspension of the rules 3 (1) (d) and Rule 7, and direction to respondents to not initiate any coercive action in the form of penalties, blocking of access as against the publishers, intermediaries and citizens for non-compliance of the IT rules 2021, by way of interim relief. Petitions have been filed in different High Courts challenging the IT Rules. The Central Government has approached the Supreme Court seeking to transfer the pleas to the Apex Court.