Bombay HC delivers split verdict on Kunal Kamra’s plea challenging changes in IT rules

Syllabus: GS-II

Subject: Polity

Topic: Judgements

Issue: IT Act 2000 and IT Rules 2023

Context: Bombay High Court delivered a split verdict in a petition that challenged Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023.

Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023:

  • It empowers the Centre to establish a fact-checking unit (FCU) to identify fake, false and misleading information about the government’s business on social media platforms.
  • The government can then ask the platforms to remove such content/ news related.
  • Failing to comply, intermediaries may lose their safe harbour status under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.

Petitioner’s arguments:

  • Rules violate the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1)(a) and right to practice and trade or profession under Article 19(1)(g).

Information Technology Act, 2000

It is a primary law in India dealing with cybercrime and electronic commerce.

Key Provisions:

  • Key terms like “electronic record,” “digital signature,” “information technology,” etc. are defined under this Act.
  • Legal recognition of digital signatures and their use for authenticating electronic records.
  • Penalises various cybercrimes like hacking, data theft, and online fraud.
  • Safe harbour provision: Intermediaries not liable for any third-party information, data, or communication.
  • Empowers government to block information from public access under specific conditions like sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India etc.
Related Case Law: Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2015)The Supreme Court declared Section 66A of IT Act,2000 unconstitutional for being violative of Article 19(1)(a).

Section 66A – criminalises sending offensive messages using a computer or any other communication device.

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