By LE Desk

New Delhi, June 22, 2021: Justice Anup Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court has recused himself from hearing cases challenging the applicability of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to digital news portals.

A division bench of the High Court listed the cases for hearing on May 28.

The petitions challenging the IT Rules have been filed by Quint Digital Media Limited and its director Ritu Kapur; Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire; Pravda Media Foundation, which owns the fact-checking website AltNews, and others.

The cases were listed before the vacation bench of Justice Bhambhani and Justice Jasmeet Singh. The petitioners had made a mentioning for listing of the cases during the court vacation to seek interim protection during pendency of the matter, The Indian Express reported.

In the petition filed by Quint, it has been argued that the executive power to virtually dictate content to digital news portals would squarely violate Article 14 and 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution. Similar arguments have been made in other petitions. “The IT Rules, 2021 introduce digital portals with ‘news and current affairs content’ as a specific and targeted class to be subject to regulation by a loose-ranging ‘Code of Ethics’ and to be consummately overseen by Central Government officers,” reads the petition.

The petition also argues that the Rules create a space for the State to enter and control news by way of deletion, modification or blocking, censure, compelled apology and more. “Clubbing online news portals with social media as distinct from the print news media is unfair and irrational classification,” it contends.

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