Court questions on amended IT rules: Is unlimited discretion allowed in a law?

Court questions on amended IT rules: The Bombay High Court, while hearing petitions against the recent amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Rules on fake news, on Friday questioned whether giving immense and unlimited discretion in a law is legally permissible.

A division bench of Justice Gautam Patel and Justice Neela Gokhale said that before considering the impact of these amended rules on the fundamental rights of the citizens, it would like to know the limits of the words ‘bogus, false and misleading’ used in these rules. is required.

The bench made the observation while hearing various petitions challenging the recently amended IT rules. Under the amended rules, the Center is empowered to identify fake news on social media against the government and its functioning.

Comedian Kunal Kamra, ‘Editors Guild of India’ and ‘Association of Indian Magazines’ have filed a petition in the High Court against the amended rules, calling them arbitrary and unconstitutional. The petitions have argued that the amended rules will have a dangerous impact on the fundamental rights of citizens.

The bench said on Friday that as per rules, action will be taken when any material/information is bogus, false and misleading and the authority has a clear right to tell whether the material is bogus or not. The Fact Finding Unit (FCU) has been empowered in this matter.

Justice Patel said, it is fine to have FCU, but we are concerned about the authority given to this FCU. What we find extremely serious are words like ‘fake, false and misleading’. The court questioned whether it would also include opinion and editorial content.

Justice Patel said, I do not know or I cannot tell what are the limits of these words. Is it legally permissible to have such immense and unlimited discretion in a law? What are the boundaries of these words? On April 6 this year, the central government had announced certain amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, including provision for a fact-finding unit to identify fake, false or misleading online content relating to the government.

In these three petitions, the court has been requested to declare the amended rules as unconstitutional and direct the government not to act against any person under these rules. The central government had earlier assured the court that it would not notify the fact finding unit till July 10.
Chetan Gour (Language)

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