Kerala HC shields newscasters from coercive motion beneath IT regulations | India Information – Occasions of India

Kerala HC shields newscasters from coercive motion beneath IT regulations | India Information – Occasions of India

KOCHI: In a setback for the Centre, the Kerala High Court on Friday restrained the Union government from taking any coercive action against members of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) under its new IT rules.
Justice PB Suresh Kumar issued the stay, along with a notice to the Centre on the NBA’s plea challenging the new IT rules on the ground that they grant excessive powers to the government to unreasonably and impermissibly restrict freedom of speech and expression of the media.
The NBA is a consortium of 78 private television news and current affairs broadcasters, including the country’s leading 25 channels.
During the admission hearing, senior advocate Maninder Singh submitted that the high court had passed an order restraining the government from taking coercive action under the new IT rules on a plea filed by the online legal news portal, LiveLaw. Following the submission, the court ordered that no coercive action should be taken against the NBA for not complying with the new IT rules in view of the order passed in the LiveLaw case.
In the petition, the NBA contended that the new rules provided in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 are ultra vires to the Information Technology Act, 2000. It also stated that the new rules violate constitutional rights such as right to equality before law (Article 14) and right to freedom to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business (Article 19(1)(g).
The NBA also said in its petition that it is challenging Part III of the new IT rules, titled ‘Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards in relation to Digital Media, as they create “an oversight mechanism giving the executive unfettered, unbridled, and excessive powers to regulate the content of digital news media”.
An NBA statement on the litigation said, “The grievance redressal mechanism created, and the powers delegated, have a ‘chilling effect’ on the content of the media. The writ also states that the executive, by creating such a structure, has made inroads into judicial power and vested itself with powers reserved exclusively for the judiciary and such exercise of power is without jurisdiction.”
It has been contended by the NBA in the petition that the new IT rules is ultra vires with the IT Act as the Act does not contain any provision for dealing with the content of any programme. “The rules violate Article 14 as there is neither any parity nor any valid exercise of classification in the rules as ‘intermediaries’ have been equated with ‘digital news media’,” the petition said.
‘Programme Code’ has been made applicable to digital news media through the new IT rules. The ‘Programme Code’ contains vague, imprecise, and ambiguous terms in relation to content such as ‘good taste’ and ‘snobbish attitude’. Therefore, the ‘Programme Code’ is not in consonance with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue, the petition said.

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