The Union government has informed the Madras High Court that the Information Technology Rules, 2021, have been framed in the interest of the citizens, and to ensure regulation of illegal digital content, Live Law reported on Saturday.
The Centre filed two counter-affidavits in court in response to two petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of the IT rules.
One of the petitions had been filed by Carnatic musician TM Krishna, and the other one had been filed by the Digital News Publishers Association, an organisation comprised of 12 digital media outlets, and journalist Mukund Padmanabhan.
The two affidavits were filed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, according to the Hindustan Times.
In the submissions, the government said that the rules “substantially empower” every user of a digital platform to seek redressal for any grievance and “command accountability in the case of infringement of their rights”.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that the new IT rules do not have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech as they do not impose penalties on users, who post content that violate the order.
The only action that can be taken would be through the intermediaries, or the social media companies, which can remove such content or terminate the user’s access to their platform, the government said, according to the Hindustan Times.
The affidavit also noted that the new IT rules allow users to challenge such action under the grievance redressal mechanism, or they can take legal recourse.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in its affidavit, said that the new rules were introduced to create an institutional framework for digital media and OTT (over-the-top, or streaming) platforms, according to The Hindu.
Earlier, the Madras High Court had criticised the Centre for the delay in filing its affidavit.
But the central government told the court that the delay had occurred as it needed to present a consistent and uniform stand before different High Courts, which had taken up these cases.
The Union government also noted that there were a total of 19 petitions pending before different High Courts in the country.
The IT rules require social media platforms to appoint chief compliance officers to make sure that the rules are followed. They also mandate the appointment of nodal and grievance officers to coordinate with law enforcement agencies.
All these officials should be based in India.
The new rules also require social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
Krishna, in his petition, has said that the part II of the rules, which regulates social media platforms, was in violation of his rights as a social media user.
The musician has also argued that part III of the rules, which regulates digital news media and over-the-top platforms, was violative of his rights as an online content creator.
The Digital News Publishers Association said that organisations that only run online publications should fall under the ambit of the new IT rules. According to the association, online news portals of “legacy media houses” that run newspapers and news channels should not come under the new rules.