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May 01, 2013

Supreme Court of India to Examine the Validity of 2011 IT Rules Act

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

In April 2011, the Government of India introduced four sets of rules under the Information Technology Act, 2000. One of them was the Intermediary Guidelines Rules which prohibited content of specific nature on the Internet. An intermediary, such as a website host, is required to block such content, reported PRS Legislative Research.



The key issue with such a regulation is that it violates the right of free speech. Media reports indicate that these rules differ from the requirements governing content of other media such as the newspapers and the television. This in turn has prompted an Internet company like MouthShut.com (India) Pvt., which runs a portal mouthshut.com, to challenge Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. 

To challenge this government ruling, Mouthshut.com has filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the apex court, asking the court to declare such rules as illegal, null and void as they are against the right to freedom of speech given by the Indian Constitution.

According to a Business Standard report, the Supreme Court of India has agreed to examine the validity of the Information Technology Rules, guidelines which make it mandatory for a website owner to screen content and exercise online censorship of the contents posted on the portal. The report further indicates that a bench of justices comprising T S Thakur and S J Mukhopadhaya issued the Mountshut.com’s PIL notice to the central government and all the associated states.

 Per  thecompany’s website, Mouthshut.com is a platform for consumers to voice their opinions and write reviews on all consumer products including local businesses and large corporations, thereby enabling consumers to make better shopping decisions.

In a statement, the petitioner said, "It is submitted that the impugned Rules impose significant burden on it forcing it to screen content and exercise online censorship which in turn impacts the freedom of speech and expression of its customers thereby risking a loss of its large consumer base or incurring legal costs and facing criminal action for third party user-generated content."




Edited by Jamie Epstein
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