IT imposes draconian freedom of expression law, says HC plea
The division bench heard a motion filed by legal news site The Leaflet and a PIL plea from journalist Nikhil Wagle
The new information technology (IT) rules were aimed at monitoring and censoring internet speech and were the most draconian free speech law in recent times, the Bombay High Court reported on Monday.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni heard motion filed by legal information website The booklet and a public interest litigation plea by journalist Nikhil Wagle challenging information technology rules (Intermediate Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) for “violation” of fundamental rights under the Constitution.
Senior lawyer Darius Khambata representing The booklet argued that the rules went far beyond the permitted restrictions on free speech and free trade for digital news publishers. He said: “These rules are aimed at effectively monitoring and censoring internet speech by a different ministry, the most draconian free speech law in recent times. They have nothing to do with the regulation or recognition of electronic transactions on the Internet. These rules are so vague, so draconian that they have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, so much so that they must be suspended immediately ”.
Lawyer Abhay Nevagi, representing Mr Wagle, said he is challenging all parts of the rules. There was no provision in the computer law to establish such broad rules. The rules were in violation of article 51 (c) of the Constitution which was intended to promote respect for international law and treaty obligations in relations between organized peoples; and encourage the settlement of international disputes through arbitration. He wanted the Rules to be declared illegal and arbitrary.
The hearing will continue on August 10 when the Additional Solicitor General speaks on behalf of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.