Do news websites require registration, license? Jammu & Kashmir HC seeks govt response in plea on proliferation of online news portals

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The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has sought the response of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir in a plea highlighting the proliferation of news websites which are allegedly operating without registration or license and are disseminating fake news (Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Forum v. Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir and Ors).

A Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar asked the State to clarify whether such news portals are required to be registered or licensed, and if so, whether such portals are running in compliance with legal requirements.

“We call upon the respondents to file response specifically pointing out to provisions of law under such news portals if at all are required to be registered or licensed and if so whether the above news portals are running with due permission in accordance with law and whether any agency is examining the contents of the news circulated by these news portals,” the order passed on July 30, 2021 said.

The petition filed by NGO, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Forum alleged that news portals and social media handles have mushroomed in J&K, are operating without being subject to any regulatory regime and are spreading fake news.

Counsel for the petitioners, Advocates Shafqat Nazir and Shabir Ahmad Bhat, submitted that several news portals like Kashmir News, Kashmir Voice, Kashmir Breaking News, News Kashmir 24/7, Kashmir Business Hub and Bol Kashmir etc are operating freely without any registration or license from any authority and these news portals are not under supervision and control of any authority whatsoever.

The Court called upon the government of the Union Territory, through its Principal Secretary, to file a response within one month. The order stated,

“…we call upon the respondents to file response specifically pointing out to provisions of law under such news portals if at all are required to be registered or licensed and if so whether the above news portals are running with due permission in accordance with law and whether any agency is examining the contents of the news circulated by these news portals.”

Advocate General DC Raina assisted by Government Advocate Sajad Ashraf appeared on behalf of the State.

The matter will be heard next on September 1, 2021.

Read Order here:

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