TM Krishna moves Madras HC against Centre's new IT rules; terms them 'vague', 'unreasonable'
In his petition, Krishna says that these regulations will result in 'over-censorship and snuffing out dissenting and contrarian voices under pressured wielded by majoritarian groups.'
Carnatic vocalist and social commentator TM Krishna has filed a petition on 10 June in the Madras High Court challenging the new digital media rules — Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 — issued by the Government of India on 25 February.
Krishna called these new guidelines "arbitrary, vague, disproportionate and unreasonable" and asked that they be termed ultra vires both the Constitution of India and the IT Act 2000.
A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy has directed the Union Government to file its counter-affidavit within three weeks.
Of the new IT rules, and especially Part II (which regulate social media intermediaries) and Part III (Digital Media Ethics Code which regulate digital news publications and OTT platforms), Krishna argued they are "vaguely worded" and that they violate his rights as a user of social media services and rights as an online content creator respectively.
He added that these regulations will result in "over-censorship and snuffing out dissenting and contrarian voices under pressured wielded by majoritarian groups."
"For me, privacy, like music, is an experience. When I think of privacy, I think of life, intimacy, discovery, security, happiness, lack of fear and freedom to create. I think of liberty, dignity and choice, as facets inherent in me, not just as an artist but as a human being. I submit that the impugned rules offend my rights as an artist and cultural commentator by both imposing a chilling effect on free speech and by impinging on my right to privacy," the Ramon Magsaysay award winner wrote in his petition.
He also touched upon how the Supreme Court has acknowledged the need for privacy, as well as how privacy is intrinsically linked to the freedom of expression.
As per the new IT rules, in case of non-compliance, even if there isn't any significant change in the way the social media platforms operate, intermediaries such as Facebook or Twitter will lose the protection afforded to them under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, and make them liable, should any third-party user post unlawful content on their platforms.
In March, digital news publications such as The Wire and The Quint approached the Delhi HC questioning the validity of the new IT rules. Kannada news daily Pratidhwani also moved the Karnataka HC against the rules, while the Kerala HC provided interim protection to LiveLaw for any coercive action under Part III of the new rules.
A copy of the petition filed by TM Krishna can be seen below:
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