Bombay HC Takes Cognisance Of Comedian’s Plea, Directs Centre To Prove Viability Of IT Rules

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The Bombay High Court in India has directed the Union government to provide an affidavit, within a week, regarding a plea filed by comedian Kunal Kamra challenging the recent amendments to the IT Rules. The amendments empower the government to flag “fake news” concerning government bodies. The court has also asked the government to explain the factual background that led to the amendments and to justify why the new rules should not be stayed. Kamra’s advocate argued that the amendments violate the Right to Free Speech and are against the public’s interest. The court has listed the matter for the next hearing on April 21. The digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation has said that the new norms threaten the freedom of press and will increase censorship in India.

 Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh argued for the government and requested additional time to file a reply. Singh also stated that the amendments are yet to come into force, and therefore there was no urgency for an interim order in the matter.

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has expressed concerns that the new IT Rules amendments pose a threat to press freedom in India. According to IFF, the amendments grant the government even broader powers of censorship of any content it deems fake, false, or misleading. The group argues that such a degree of regulation is highly susceptible to abuse and could be used to increase censorship in India.