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SC stays Centre’s notification of March 20, establishing fact-checking unit to monitor social media

By Jhanak Singh      21 March, 2024 03:52 PM      0 Comments
SC stays Centres notification of March 20 establishing fact checking unit to monitor social media

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed operation of the government's fact check unit, notified on March 20, till the third judge of Bombay High Court gives its verdict after analysing its impact on freedom of speech and expression.

The fact check unit was notified under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, under the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for the purposes of monitoring social media content related to government business.  

"We are of the view that notification dated March 20, 2024, after rejection of application of interim relief, needs to be stayed," a bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said. 

After hearing petitions filed by comedian Kunal Kamra and Editors Guild of India, to stay IT Rules, the bench said, "We are of the considered view that questions before the High Court deal with core questions on Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Pending adjudication by HC, we are desisting to deal on merits which may foreclose assessment by the third judge."

After a split verdict by a division bench of the Bombay High Court on the validity of the rules, the bench said that pending final orders, the  FCU can't be activated.

The court heard senior advocate Darius Khambata and advocates Shadan Farasat, Gautam Bhatia, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The petitioners said the PIB was supposed to put out correct information about the government, but after the notification, the government can now issue directions to intermediaries to take content down, which was the ultimate irony. 
 



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