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The petition was filed on behalf of news website ‘Leaflet’ and journalist Nikhil Wagle.

The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the central government what was the need to implement the new IT Act in 2021 without changing the existing IT rules that came into force in 2009. A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing two petitions seeking an interim stay on the implementation of the new IT Act. After the hearing on Friday, the court has reserved its verdict in this matter.

The petition was filed on behalf of news website ‘Leaflet’ and journalist Nikhil Wagle. Objections have been raised in both the petitions on several provisions of the new rules. The petitioners have contended that the new rules go beyond the freedom of expression provided by the Constitution. These rules violate Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

There was a demand for an immediate ban on the new rule
The leaflet’s advocate Darius Khambata has urged the court to immediately stop the implementation of the new rules. In the last hearing, Khambata had argued that this was the first time that open restrictions were being imposed on the content.

He had said that these rules go beyond the norms of the IT Act. Provision has also been made for accountability and grievance redressal from social media platforms. The petitioners had told the court that the grounds for regulating the content and seeking accountability are based on parameters that are vague and far beyond the provisions of the existing IT Act and the constitutional right to freedom of speech under Article 19.

Press Council has also made rules
The bench on Friday said by verbal order that it is inclined to grant limited relief to both the petitioners at serial number nine of the new rules, which pertains to the observance of the code of conduct. Earlier during the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, said that even the Press Council of India (PCI) has prescribed a code of conduct to be followed by journalists.

How can you restrict the freedom of thought of someone, the court asked
However, the bench observed that even in the Press Council of India guidelines, there is no harsh punishment for violation. “How can you show such a strict stand on PCI guidelines? How can you express anything unless you have freedom of thought? How can you restrict someone’s freedom of thought?”

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