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SC To Hear In July Pleas Concerning Hate Speeches, IT Rules

The apex court also said it would hear the matters pertaining to the challenge to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 on July 19.

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Supreme Court of India PTI

The Supreme Court Thursday said it would hear on July 21 the pleas concerning instances of hate speeches and hate crimes.

The apex court also said it would hear the matters pertaining to the challenge to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 on July 19. A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said pleas concerning the challenge to the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules,2021 would be heard on July 20.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Oka and J B Pardiwala, was hearing a batch of pleas that have raised issues ranging from hate speeches to challenges to the IT Rules and the Cable TV Rules. During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that under the rule-making powers or regulation-making power under the IT Act, the Central Government has come out with digital media discipline rules.

“There are three kinds of media – print, electronic and digital media. The print has a separate regulatory mechanism. The electronic has Cable TV Act etc and for digital, the Central Government has come out with statutory regulations,” he said. Mehta said the regulations broadly provide for a mechanism in which there is a three-tier system.

He said the first tier is that every digital media platform will have its in-house mechanism if there is any complaint by the reader or by the viewer.  “The second-tier is that whichever medium you are in, suppose you are running a web or digital magazine, then the industry…..must have their internal mechanism,” he said.

Mehta said a third tier is an intra-ministerial group from the ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Electronics, and Home with outsiders to assist that ministry. “And that ministry has certain powers to censure, to ask or tell them to publish an apology or publish a disclaimer,” he said, adding that is a recommendatory body.

He said those Rules are challenged before various high courts and the Bombay High Court has stayed one or two rules. Mehta said other high courts have said rules may operate but no coercive steps are taken. He said besides filing a transfer petition, the Centre has also filed a special leave petition (SLPs) against the order of the high courts.

The bench observed that on May 9, it had already directed a stay of further proceedings pending before the high court in the respective cases involving a challenge to Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021 and Ancillary Rules which is the subject matter in the pleas here.

While posting these matters for hearing in July, the bench also said in case any urgent orders are required before the next date of hearing, it is open to the parties to move for appropriate relief before the vacation bench of the apex court.

-With PTI Input

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