The first bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice PD Audikesavalu issued the interim direction on a plea moved by the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) challenging the amended provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2021, relating to the adherence to the code of ethics.
Senior counsel PS Raman contended that the High Court of Bombay had already stalled such provisions, as they would have an impact on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
The petitioner had alleged that Clause 9 (1) and 9 (3) of the IT Act are against the constitutional rights for free expression. The IBDF said that Rule 9 (3) provided for ensuring observance and adherence to the code of ethics by publishers operating in India as laid down in the appendix to the rules, which insisted on a three-tier structure – self-regulation by the publishers, self-regulating bodies of the publishers, and oversight mechanism by the central government.
Expressing apprehension over the third level that said the oversight mechanism by the Union government would give the final clearance for the contents, the petitioner association said it would rob the independence of media organizations. The Bombay High Court has already stalled the disputed Clause 9 of the IT Act, which should have pan India effect, it added.
Appearing for the Centre, Assistant Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan sought four weeks to file the counter affidavit, which the bench granted. “In the meanwhile, the respondents are restrained from taking any coercive action against the petitioners without seeking permission of the court,” the bench added.