Press Trust of india

Bombay HC extends stay on govt’s ‘fact check unit’

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Srinagar: The Union government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it wouldn’t notify the fact-checking unit for identifying fake news against the government on social media till July 10.

This came in response to a petition filed separately by the Editors Guild of India and the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM).

The IT Amendment Rules 2023 were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on April 6 this year. Along with several other regulations, it also granted the government the authority to establish a ‘fact check unit’ to categorise and remove any online content pertaining to ‘any business of the central government’ that is deemed ‘fake, false or misleading.’

The Editors Guild had raised its concerns over the same in its statement dated April 7 and then went on to file a writ petition in the Bombay HC challenging the constitutional validity of this provision in the IT Amendment Rules 2023. It had deemed the provision “ultra vires the Information Technology Act, 2000, and violating the right to freedom of speech and expression”.

Similarly, AIM too had approached the Bombay HC and had sought the court’s intervention in the matter.

The Bombay HC has now directed the Centre to file its reply to the petition by June 20, and has listed the matter for final hearing on July 6 and 7, 2023. Further, the undertaking provided by the government not to constitute its fact check unit has been extended to July 10, 2023.

In a statement, the Editors Guild said it had raised its concerns in its statement dated April 7, 2023, stating that “amendments to the IT Rules will have deeply adverse implications for press freedom in the country”.

“The Guild has now filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court challenging the constitutional validity of this provision of the IT Rules Amendment, 2023 for being ultra vires the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000), and violating the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Bombay High Court directed the Government to file its Reply to this petition by June 20, and has listed the matters for final hearing on July 6 and 7, 2023. The undertaking provided by the government not to constitute its fact check unit has been extended to July 10, 2023,” the Guild said while praising the help of the legal team that has “spearheaded this effort.”

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