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IT Rules 2023 Challenge: Free Speech vs. Government Power



  Sep 27, 2023

IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023



Context

Where:Bombay High Court
When:On a recent Tuesday
What:The court was hearing petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023.

Stakeholders and Their Arguments

Bombay High Court
Justices:Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale
Main Concern:Balancing public interest against fake news and the overarching powers of the government.

"Political Satirist Kunal Kamra and Other Media Entities

Representative:Senior advocate Navroz Seervai

Argument:The IT Rules are not reasonable restrictions and are not in the public interest.

Concern:The government becomes the sole arbitrator in fact-checking, raising questions like "who will fact-check the fact-checker?"

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology

Representative:Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta

Argument:The IT Rules aim to curb misinformation without penalizing or criminalizing anyone.

Clarification:Humor or satire against the government is not the concern; the focus is on curbing false facts circulated by anonymous people.
 

Core Issues

Freedom vs Regulation:The tug-of-war between freedom of expression and the need to curb misinformation.

Governmental Power:Whether the government should be the sole arbitrator in determining what constitutes 'false' information.

Public Interest:Whether the new IT Rules are genuinely in the best interests of the public or serve to stifle free speech.

Reasonable Restrictions:The debate over whether the IT Rules fall under 'reasonable restrictions' as allowed by the Constitution.

Checks and Balances:The need for an independent body to oversee or 'fact-check' the government's own fact-checking processes.
 
The case raises significant questions about freedom of speech, governmental power, and what constitutes the public interest, all under the backdrop of the digital age.


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