The Central government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it would not notify the fact-checking unit (FCU) constituted under the new Information Technology (IT) Rules for identifying fake news against the government on social media until July 10.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale was hearing a petition filed by political satirist Kunal Kamra challenging the constitutional validity of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. The new Rules require social media intermediaries to censor or otherwise modify content that relates to the Central government, if a government-mandated FCU directs them to do so.
On April 21, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had said that it would not notify the FCU till July 5; this has now been extended to July 10. Two new petitions have also been filed by the Editors Guild of India and the Association of Indian Magazines, challenging the constitutional validity of the new Rules and calling them “arbitrary”.
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The court on Wednesday said, “We shall take up the petitions for final disposal from July 6 onwards. The petitioners’ counsels shall complete their arguments on July 7 after which we shall set a date for the Union government to put forth their arguments. In view of the dates fixed for hearing, the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh says that the statement made earlier by the Centre shall stand extended till July 10,” the court added.
The affidavit filed by the Centre on June 6 reads, “In case, where Fact Check Unit of Central Government intimates the intermediary that any information displayed on its platform is based on patently false and misleading facts, any person aggrieved by the availability of such information would be entitled to pursue any legal remedy, the court shall be the final arbiter of the factual correctness of the information.”