IT Guidelines Amendments Do Not Provide Safety to Parody, Satire: Bombay HC

The amendments to the Info Technology Guidelines, prima facie, don’t appear to protect parody and satire, the Bombay Excessive Courtroom stated on Monday whereas listening to a petition filed by slapstick comedian Kunal Kamra.

The HC bench additionally stated Kamra’s petition difficult the amendments was maintainable.

On April 6, the Union authorities promulgated sure amendments to the Info Technology (Middleman Tips and Digital Media Ethics Code) Guidelines, 2021, together with a provision of a truth test unit to establish faux or false or deceptive on-line content material associated to the federal government.

Kamra, in his petition, claimed the brand new guidelines may probably result in his content material being arbitrarily blocked or his social media accounts being suspended or deactivated, thus harming him professionally.

He has sought that the court docket declares the amended guidelines unconstitutional and provides a route to the federal government to restrain from taking motion in opposition to any particular person beneath the foundations.

The Union authorities, in an affidavit filed in court docket, had “reiterated that the role of the fact check unit is restricted to any business of the Central government, which may include information about policies, programmes, notifications, rules, regulations, implementation thereof, etc”.

“The fact check unit may only identify fake or false or misleading information and not any opinion, satire or artistic impression. Therefore, the aim of the government with regard to the introduction of the impugned provision is explicitly clear and suffers from no purported arbitrariness or unreasonableness as alleged by the petitioner (Kamra),” the Centre’s affidavit additional contended.

On Monday, a division bench of Justices GS Patel and Neela Gokhale, whereas listening to the plea, stated, prima facie, the foundations do not appear to protect truthful criticism of the federal government like parody and satire.

“You are not affecting parody, satire, that is what your affidavit says. That is not what your rules say. There is no protection granted. That we will have to see,” Justice Patel orally remarked.

The Centre had additionally stated the actual fact test unit has not but been notified by the federal government and, therefore, arguments made within the petition (by Kamra) relating to its functioning should not have any foundation and have been “premature and under mere misconceptions of the petitioner”.

However, the bench said the argument that the challenge is “premature” is also incorrect.

The court will hear the matter further on April 27.

As per the amendments, intermediaries such as social media companies will have to act against content identified by the fact check unit or risk losing their “safe harbour” protections under Section 79 of the IT Act.

“Protected harbour” protections allow intermediaries to avoid liabilities for what third parties post on their websites.

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