Petition filed by an Advocate in Delhi High Court, challenging the new IT Rules, 2021

By Ramandeep Kaur

Mr. Uday Bedi, an advocate has filed a petition in Delhi High Court challenging 3 and 4 of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Codes) Rules, 2021. Thus, putting a question mark on the validity of said enactment concerning grievances addresses system of social media platform like Facebook, Instagram and twitter.

Rules 3 and 4 deal with process of entertaining complaints regarding social media platforms. The Petitioner contended that the impugned Rules 3 and 4 violate the Right to Equality under Article 14, right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 and the right to privacy within the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • The petitioner contended that Rules 3 contravenes the Article 19(1)(a) and the provision under Rule 3(1)(d), entitling Social Media Intermediaries (SMIs) like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider complaints by private persons and voluntarily delete any information protected under the law. So, this is not in consonance with the restrictions imposed on said Article, under Article 19 clause 2 of Indian Constitution.
  • The above provision doesn’t come under scope of the Section 79(3) of Information Technology Act of 2000 which provides an exception to the protection given to intermediaries from prosecution for posts. Thereby, through such rules Union government has overruled the Hon’ble Supreme court’s judgement in the case of Shreya Singhal where it was held that the intermediaries cannot decide the legitimacy of request.
  • The time limits prescribed for the disposal of complaints under Rule 3(2) is different from that in Rule 4(8).
  • The validity of Rule 3(1)(h) has been challenged for violation of Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. This is because sensitive data containing email, phone number etc. can be retained for 180 days. Secondly, the voluntary removal of information access points to the fact that users are under direct surveillance on the social media platforms.
  • The condition under Rule 4(2) encroaches the Right to Privacy. The condition that Significant Social Media Intermediaries(SMISs) have to look for the foremost originator of the message. This actually requires disclosure of the whole user’s information.
  • There is uncertainty regarding the basis on which Social Media Intermediaries (SMIs) can take action voluntarily without keeping surveillance over all the conversation on social media handles.
  • There is complete violation of Article 14 of Indian Constitution as there is no reasonable link between the objective of the IT act of 2000 and keeping a surveillance system on petitioner and other users. The rules are crossing the boundary of Information Technology Act ,2000.
  • The impugned rules are unjust because no guidelines have been provided regarding the appointment of the Grievance Officer or Chief Compliance Officer.
  • Right to freedom of speech has been left at the mercy of private entities. Moreover, these rules make the decision of grievance officer or chief compliance officer as final. Such rules deprive the author of the information from having the opportunity of being heard

In the nutshell, the petitioner wants the Rules 3 and 4 of the IT Rules 2021 to be struck down. largely due to the fact that they curtail his communication with others and encroach his privacy. Moreover, State has acted are in an arbitrary and malafide manner as well. According to him, such Rules being malafide, erode the doctrine of separation of powers (which is the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.)