Centre moves SC for transfer of cases challenging IT Rules 2021 from various High Courts to top court

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Representative image
Representative image

New Delhi [India], July 6 (ANI): The Central government has approached the Supreme Court seeking transfer of all petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021 from various High Courts to the top court.

The Centre has filed a transfer petition saying several High Courts including Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Kerala High Courts are seized of the issue, and the issue be adjudicated by the apex court.

India's recently enforced law, Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021, came to regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, social media companies like Facebook, Twitter - rendering their services as 'intermediaries' - and as well as over-the-top (OTT platforms).

According to amended IT rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker and appoint grievance redressal officers based in the country to deal with online content flagged by authorities and courts and assist in investigations.

Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court while hearing a seeking to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer under Rule 4 of the IT Rules 2021, gave two days' time to Twitter to come up with a specific timeline for appointing a Grievance Officer in compliance with IT Rules 2021.

On Monday, the Central government informed the Delhi High Court that Twitter has failed to comply with India's law regulating tech companies rendering their services as 'intermediaries'.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in an affidavit filed before the High Court, stated that despite three months time being granted to all Significant Social Media Intermediaries to comply with the IT Rules 2021, Twitter has failed to fully comply with the same.

Twitter has admitted that it was currently not in compliance with the 2021 IT Rules as it was in the process of appointing its Grievance Officer and the Nodal Officer.

In India, Section 79 of the IT Act provides a shield to social media platforms or intermediaries such as Twitter from liability for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by it in certain cases.

However, the Ministry has said when an intermediary failed to observe the IT Rules, the intermediary could be liable for any punishment under any law for the time being in force in respect of the offending content.

Petitions have been pending in the Madras High Court filed by the Digital News Publishers Association, comprising 13 media outlets and journalist Mukund Padmanabhan challenging the constitutional validity of the IT Rules, 2021 and asking to declare the Rules as ultra vires, void and violation of fundamental rights under the Constitution.

The Bombay and Kerala High Courts are also seized of similar matters. (ANI)

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