The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines - Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the artist argued, offends his right as an artist and cultural commentator by imposing a chilling effect on free speech and infringing his right to privacy.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy, before whom the plea came on Thursday, directed the petitioner’s counsel Suhrith Parthasarathy to serve the papers on Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan to enable the Centre to file its counter affidavit within three weeks.
Krishna, on citing a Supreme Court verdict in KS Puttu Swamy’s case, wherein it was recognised that the right to privacy was implicit in the guarantee of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution, said the recently notified IT Rules of-fended his right as an artist.“A reading of the Code of Ethics contained in the impugned Rules makes it impossible to glean what will be considered by the Union government as acceptable speech in the online world. Determining what is acceptable isn’t the sole prerogative of the government. It is a role that ought to be fashioned in accordance with the constitutional scheme, which the Rules manifestly fail to do,” the petitioner said.
Further, pointing out that beyond violating the rights to privacy and freedom of expression of producers of online content, the artist said impugned rules are also ultra vires of the Information Technology Act of 2000 and publishers of online curated content.
“The internet was famously meant to serve as a democratising force, as an avenue that unlike traditional spaces such as television channels, newspapers, magazines, stadia and auditoriums, would be open to all, where speech can exist free of its conventional structural barriers.
However, Part II of the impugned rules upends this,” Krishna said. “For artists and musicians, a chilling effect on speech is especially harmful. It tends to alto-gether quell the creative process and makes it impossible for a person to think imaginatively, beyond conventional boundaries and create art that is politically and socially salient,” he added.