Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to describe the factual background that necessitated the amendments to the IT Rules which allow the government or its authorities to fact-check news organizations and social media platforms.
Justices GS Patel and Neela Gokhale observed if the Centre’s fact-check unit could take up media reports and stop them from publishing articles on topics. The high court’s observation came on a plea filed by stand-up comic Kunal Kamra who has challenged the amendment to the rules.
The high court’s order comes less than a week after the Centre notified the IT Rules 2023 which mandated media and social media platforms to take down government-related content that has been fact-checked as false, fake or misleading by the Centre.
Kamra’s plea in the high court is the first salvo against the new rules. Editors and media executives spoke to BOOM expressing their apprehension over the potential misuse of the new IT Rules. They said newsrooms run by journalists are best placed to fact-check the government and not the other way around.
I can be cherry-picked for my content: Political satirist Kunal Kamra to HC
Senior advocate Navroz Seervai—representing Kunal Kamra—argued that the new IT Rules can have a retrospective effect and that the stand-up comic who is also a political satirist can be “cherry-picked” for his content.
This new rule not only strikes at the heart but also violates half a dozen Supreme Court judgements…, Seervai added.
Seervai sought a stay on the rules arguing that the Bombay High Court had already stayed portions of the IT Rules in its previous avatar. “The earlier bench of this court stayed a rule that was much less chilling,” Seervai pointed out.
However, Additional Solicitor General Anil Desai said the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) would issue a separate notification for the 'Fact-Checking Unit' and thus there was no urgency to hear arguments seeking a stay.
But Justice GS Patel countered Desai and said when it came to free speech, the high court would consider everything urgent.
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