‘IT rules impose chilling effect on free speech’: TM Krishna strikes Madras HC

TM Krishna AmitMehra1200

The Madras High Court has issued a discover to the Government of India in a plea filed by Carnatic musical vocalist and author, TM Krishna, on the brand new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, Live Law reported.

In a petition filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation on behalf of Krishna, the Ramon Magsaysay awardee writes that the rules, “offend my right as an artist and cultural commentator by both imposing a chilling effect on free speech, and by impinging on my right to privacy.”

Krishna challenges that the rules are in opposition to the Constitution of India and the IT Act 2000.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy gave the Union authorities three weeks to file a counter-affidavit after listening to the vocalist’s petition.

What does TM Krishna say in his petition?

Bringing up the 2017 Supreme Court judgment which ensures the precise to privateness as a basic proper underneath the precise to life and private liberty, the petition states, “Part II of the Impugned Rules violate my rights as a user of social media services, while Part III of the same Impugned Rules are in breach of my rights as a creator of online content.”

Speaking about Part three of the IT rules, which lays down regulatory mechanisms for digital content material by information media and on OTT platforms, Krishna states that the Code of Ethics is “vague and unclear”. For occasion, the petition says the rules relating to content material round perception, race or faith, will “thwart artists from raising difficult questions against existing aesthetic, gender and caste hierarchies in Karnatic music,” and thwart dissent in opposition to present norms.

“A reading of the Code of Ethics contained in the Impugned Rules makes it impossible to glean what will be considered by the Union government as acceptable speech in the online world. In any event, it is submitted that determining what is acceptable isn’t the sole prerogative of the government,” the petition states.

The IT Rules lays down provisions for self-regulation in addition to oversight by the central authorities. Krishna argues that rules will “lead to a chilling of the creative process,” because of the “arbitrary ministerial supervision.”

Regarding Part 2 of the IT Rules, which offers with social media platforms or intermediaries, the petition says that it “vests private intermediaries with excessive power in shaping what speech is permitted and what speech is not.”

Referring to part of the rules which makes it necessary for social media platforms to maintain monitor of the originator of a selected info, the petition states, “The rule is so vaguely worded that it is difficult to gather precisely what the social media intermediary will have to do in order to identify the first origination of information.” It goes on to state that this may result in social media platforms adopting rules that are unmindful of 1’s privateness.

What has the Madras HC directed?

The Court has given the federal government three weeks to file a response to the affidavit and the matter shall be heard after 4 weeks.

Earlier, Delhi and Kerala High Courts had sought a response from the Centre relating to the validity of the brand new IT Rules. While The Quint, The Wire and Foundation for Independent Journalism had filed a petition within the Delhi HC, the Live Law Media Private Limited had approached the Kerala HC.


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