On Friday, the Supreme Court refused to restrain various high courts from hearing the petitions questioning the validity of new IT Rules 2021, as sought by the Centre.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which were notified and published in the Official Gazette on February 25, 2021, were challenged before different HCs because the Rules enable the government to virtually dictate content to digital news portals, among others. They also alleged that the Rules do not meet the requirements of restricting freedom of speech and expression and, therefore, are unconstitutional and liable to be struck down.
A bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar, while refusing to stay the proceedings before the HCs, tagged the Centre’s transfer petition and another similar matter pending before the apex court.
“We are not passing any other orders except tagging it (with a pending case of Justice for Rights Foundation) and directing to list the same before the appropriate bench. Let the same come up on July 16,” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who wanted to stay on the proceedings before the HCs.
MeitY had moved the SC seeking transfer of the petitions pending before the high courts of Delhi and Kerala to the top court to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and divergent judicial views.
It said that transfer of the petitions is necessary as any orders passed by the HC invariance to the SC directions “will create confusion and administrative issues across the entire country. Further, if such a petition is decided independently, the same may result in a likelihood of conflict between the decision of the HC and the SC. Therefore, in the interest of justice, the writ petitions may be withdrawn from the respective HCs and be transferred to the SC and be tried and disposed of by the SC”.