New IT rules: SC refuses to stay proceeding before various High Courts

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The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay proceedings in connection with petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s new IT rules before various high courts.

The Centre had moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of all petitions to it, citing multiplicity of proceedings. Several high courts, including Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Kerala High Courts are hearing petitions against the IT rules.

In its plea, the Centre said, the issue of regulating the OTT platform was pending before the top court.

A bench comprising of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna tagged the central government petition, seeking transfer of all such cases to the top court, with an appeal filed by Justice for Rights Foundation, which is pending before the court.

The bench also refused to pass a direction for an interim stay on the proceedings before various high courts hearing pleas challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that there were cases pending before the top court challenging the IT Rules. The bench replied: “We will tag with a pending SLP.” The bench did not pay heed to the Centre’s request to stay the proceedings.

The bench said: “We will not pass that order today. We are just tagging and list before appropriate bench on July 16.”

The Centre, in its petition, said transfer of all petitions to the top court will avoid prolixity, multiplicity of proceedings and divergent judicial views on the validity of the new IT rules.

The Centre argued that if individual petitions were decided independently by high courts, it may result “in a likelihood of conflict between the decisions of the high court and this court”.

The Centre submitted, “The said rules have already been placed on record of this court by the petitioner and their adequateness, validity and other cognate issues are pending consideration before this court”.

The IT rules have been challenged on the ground that it enables the government to virtually dictate content to digital news portals, among others.

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