The Supreme Court on Monday stayed proceedings in various High Courts on petitions challenging the efficacy of the regulatory frameworks for social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 and the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules 2021.
“We direct stay of further proceedings pending before the High Courts in the respective cases or to be filed hereafter until the next date of hearing involving a challenge to the IT Rules or Cable TV (Amendment) Rules, which are the subject matter of proceedings in these cases,” a Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and A.S. Oka observed in the order.
The Bench listed the case for further hearing on May 19.
The court also listed separately in the same day another batch of petitions highlighting the increasingly strident presence of hate in the media.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, said he would file a chart of cases challenging the IT and Cable TV Rules. Mr. Mehta said the government has also come up with further regulations for OTT platforms, online platforms, intermediaries, and online news.
The government had in 2021 asked the apex court to transfer cases challenging the IT Rules from various High Courts to the Supreme Court for an authoritative pronouncement.
In an affidavit filed last year in the apex court, the government had maintained that the IT Rules provided a “comprehensive” mechanism to check content on OTT platforms. It had said that the Rules were based on a globally recognised model.
The apex court had in the past expressed deep concern at the utilisation of social media for committing crime. The court had felt that some messages on social media even threaten national sovereignty. It was in this context the court had called for a “properly framed regime” to allow the government to get information about first originators of messages from “significant” social media intermediaries with end-to-end encryption technology like WhatsApp.