In the first major lawsuit filed against the recent IT Rules amendments, the Bombay High Court (HC) on Tuesday (April 11) directed the Union government to file an affidavit on the plea challenging norms that empower the Centre to flag ‘fake news’ concerning government bodies within a week.
During the hearing of comedian Kunal Kamra’s petition, a bench comprised of Justice Gautam Patel and Justice Neela Gokhale sought the Union government’s response on the ‘factual background’ that paved the way for the recent amendments. The HC also requested that the Centre explain why the new IT Amendment Rules, 2023, should not be stayed.
The case has been scheduled for a hearing on April 21. “By the evening of April 19th, 2023, a limited affidavit in reply for the purposes of opposing admission and interim/ad-interim relief is to be filed… List the matter as high on board on April 21, 2023, along with all other matters,” the HC said in its order.
Advocate Navroz Seervai argued for Kamra, claiming that the amendments violated Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution.
Referring to the Shreya Singhal case and a half-dozen other Supreme Court decisions, Seervai stated that the new rules violate the Right to Free Expression and are detrimental to the public interest. He also argued that the government cannot be allowed to be an arbiter of fake news involving state bodies because doing so would be tantamount to being a judge in its own cause.
The senior advocate also stated that many social media platforms already have safeguards in place to deal with fake news, and that the new amendments could have a direct impact on people who work on social media platforms.