Bombay HC rejects applications on Centre’s Fact-Check Unit under latest IT Rules

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An outer view of Bombay High Court in Mumbai. File.

An outer view of Bombay High Court in Mumbai. File.

In a setback for the petitioners in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, the Bombay High Court on March 13 refused to accept applications seeking stay on the Union government’s Fact-Check Unit (FCU).

The interim application was filed by satirist Kunal Kamra, the Editors Guild of India, the Association of Indian Magazines and News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) seeking stay on the notification for formation of FCU.

The rules empower the Centre to establish an FCU to identify fake, false and misleading information about the government’s business on social media platforms. The social media companies/platforms will then be compelled to remove the content/information declared as fake, false, misleading by the government, and if not, they will have to defend their reasons in court.

A Division Bench of Justices Gautam S. Patel and Neela Gokhale pronounced the interim order after Justice A.S. Chandurkar, on March 11, opined that no case was made out to direct the government to continue its earlier statement for interim relief “until he decides the clutch of petitions”.

“The third judge has rendered his opinion. Consequently, the majority view is that the interim applications for stay and continuation of the previous statement (by the Union not to notify the FCU) are rejected,” said the latest order.

On January, 31, 2024, a two-judge Bench of Bombay High Court had delivered a split verdict. While Justice Patel ruled in favour of petitioners, Justice Gokhale has disagreed and upheld the amendment. The case was then placed before a third judge by the Chief Justice of the High Court.



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