Lawyer moves Delhi HC challenging new IT Rules

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New Delhi: A lawyer has moved the Delhi High Court challenging the new Information Technology (IT) Rules for allegedly being in gross disregard of the fundamental rights of free speech and privacy of users of social media intermediaries such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

In his petition that is likely to be listed on July 21, advocate Uday Bedi has contended that the new IT rules are unconstitutional and antithetical to the fundamental principles of democracy.

He has argued that the social media intermediaries cannot be given the power to decide, on the basis of a complaint or otherwise, as to which information is liable to taken down.

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He states that the new IT Rules themselves do not define how the social media intermediaries would voluntarily take action against a complaint without peeping into all conversations that take place over the SMI platform and that it is not possible to trace the first originator of a message without decrypting all the private information that is stored, published, hosted or transmitted through the platform.

While giving powers in excess of the powers given under the parent legislation i.e the IT Act to voluntarily remove access to information that does not conform to Rule 3(1)(b), the Impugned Rules have allowed the social media platforms to place the users under constant surveillance which is a gross breach of the right to privacy, the petition reads.

The rules also mandate that even if the person is not under any investigation for violation of the rules, the intermediary has to retain his or her data without any justification, which is a gross violation of the right to privacy of the user, the petition said.

Emphasising that no appellate procedure has been provided for under the rules against the decision of a Grievance Officer and/or the Chief Compliance Officer, Bedi has added that wide powers to restrict free speech of citizens have been placed in the hands of a private individuals, which is shockingly disproportionate and completely unjustified .

There is also no mandate that the author of the allegedly objectionable information has to be heard before deciding any complaint against him/her, it is stated.