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IT Rules 2023 Amendment: Bombay High Court urges Centre not to notify Fact Check Unit until Third Judge passes judgement

By Rintu Mariam Biju      07 February, 2024 03:48 PM      0 Comments
IT Rules 2023 Amendment Bombay High Court urges Centre not to notify Fact Check Unit until Third Judge

MUMBAI: On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court urged the Indian Union government to hold off on announcing its planned Fact Check Unit till a third judge has ruled on the case to the 2023 change to the IT Rules and rendered a decision. 

“I am telling everyone here willing to listen that if I had the misfortune ever to be the 3rd reference judge, I would seriously be upset by the lack of courtesy in not giving me enough time to come fully to grips with a matter that has occupied this much time of a division bench. I am saying this only advisedly”, Justice Gautam Patel reportedly said. 

Further, the judge added that it would be discourteous not to give the third judge the benefit of time to hear such a complex matter.

A week ago, the Bombay High Court delivered a split verdict in challenge against the validity of Rule 3(i)(II)(A) & (C) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Central government may notify a fact-checking body that has the authority to recognize and label online news that it deems to be false or fake in relation to any Central government action, according to Rule 3. 

Justice Patel ruled in favour of the petitioners and struck down the provision. On the other hand, Justice Gokhale dismissed the petitions. Now, once there’s a split verdict by a division bench, the case will be heard by a larger bench. In this case, a third judge will hear the case. 

Justice Patel ruled in favour of the petitioners and struck down the provision. On the other hand, Justice Gokhale dismissed the petitions.
When the matter was taken up today, senior Advocate Navroz Seervai argued that the SG's declaration would need to be made until the reference judge made a decision and a final ruling was issued. 

Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General, strongly disagreed. He stated that the Rules might not be informed until the matter is assigned to a third judge, but not beyond that. He continued by saying that he voluntarily made the declaration to withhold notification of the Rules until the division bench's decision.

Senior Advocate Darius Khambata also made a similar appeal. “May I appeal to Mr. Mehta, he had the wisdom and candour to make the original statement because he realises it's a complex issue...I only ask Mr. Mehta to reconsider if he wants to continue the statement.”

That may harm the nation, was SG’s reply.  Khambata, taking offense to this statement replied, “I would rather not say that. Mr Mehta I would never make a suggestion that harms my country, I love my country, and that's not the way I make submissions.” 

The SG reiterated that he would not make it since his declaration "not to notify the FCU" would be detrimental to the country.



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