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IT Rules 2021: Madras HC stops Centre from taking coercive action against IBDF members

The bench restrained the respondents (Centre) from taking coercive action against the petitioners (IBDF) without the Court's permission. The present petition challenges Rules 8-19 under Part-III [Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards In Relation To Digital Media] of the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

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The Madras High Court in a recent order has directed the Centre not to take any coercive action against members of the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), Sun TV Network and other media platforms which are members of IBDF under the IT Rules 2021. IBDF is the top-most body of national and regional television channels. Various digital and online streaming platforms/OTT platforms are its members.

The bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu was hearing the plea filed by IBDF challenging the IT Rules 2021, code of ethics under part III, has granted four weeks’ time to the Centre, to file its counter affidavit in the present matter.

The bench restrained the respondents (Centre) from taking coercive action against the petitioners (IBDF) without the Court’s permission. The present petition challenges Rules 8-19 under Part-III [Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards In Relation To Digital Media] of the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

The bench made observations on the Bombay High Court’s order and noted that the rules cannot be nullified without examining their constitutional validity as there is a presumption of constitutionality when the vires of legislation is challenged.

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Senior Advocate P.S. Raman, appearing for the petitioners, said the interim stay granted by Bombay High Court on sub-rules of IT Rules and a recent Kerala High Court decision directing no coercive action. Raman pointed out a recent order of the then Chief Justice-led bench, noting that the stay granted by the Bombay High Court ought to have a pan-India effect.

According to the petition, IBDF has set up an independent self-regulatory body called Digital Media Content Regulatory Council (DMCRC). The platform is set up for the purpose of addressing the grievances related to any of the content on the online/digital OTT platforms of its members. The main focus and subject of the entire enactment tends to be on e-commerce only and not online contents on the online platform.

The matter is now listed on January 25, 2022 for further hearing.

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