The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection from coercive action to online news portals as it adjourned the hearing on the plea challenging new IT rules. The Court’s took the decision after it was informed that the plea has been moved by the Centre to transfer them to the Supreme Court.
“Transfer petition has been preferred?”, a Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh asked Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee who replied, “Yes”.
The court then proceeded to adjourn the pleas by The Wire, Quint Digital Media Ltd and Pravda Media Foundation till August 20.
According to amended Information Technology Rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations.
Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the portals, urged the court to pass an order of interim protection as the Central government was yet to even reply to the petitions filed by digital media portals.
Asserting that the digital media portals before the court had preferred to challenge the new IT Rules, she said “It is not a matter voice-vote”.
“Notice has gone on the rules and they have not filed reply. Now they are asking me to report to them. This is the first step in submitting to the discipline (of regulation of content by government). Please hear my stay application and grant me protection,” she said.
She added that the central government’s conduct was “totally in the face of Supreme Court decision that government regulation of content of media is unacceptable”.
In response, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that “1700 digital media has already submitted information” as per the IT Rules.
The Court, however, refused to pass any order and directed the Centre to file counter affidavit.
(with agency inputs)