Motion in RS to annul rules to control internet content
In the wake of a recent court order directing internet giants to remove objectionable contents from Indian websites, an opposition member on Thursday brought a motion in Rajya Sabha for annulment of government rules aimed at regulating internet content.
The statutory motion, moved by P Rajeeve (CPI-M), demanded that the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, are ultra vires of the provisions of the parent IT Act and violate the freedom of speech and expression.
He said the rules should be done away with and noted that Parliament had powers to intervene in matters of subordinate legislations like this and asked the government to bring the required amendments instead of bringing such rules.
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley complimented Rajeeve for bringing to their notice that Parliament had a role in not just enacting new laws but also in overseeing and supervising subordinate legislations.
Noting that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to defy technology and that the days of withholding information have gone, Jaitley urged the Minister to "reconsider the language of restraints" to prevent its misuse.
He said he had no objection to the architecture of the Bill but felt "there is need for a balanced approach".
E M S Natchiappan (Cong) said there was a House Committee on subordinate legislations to look into such matters.
The IT Rules of 2011 stipulate that websites "cannot host information that is a grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever, harm minors or infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary right."
Rajeeve said, "I am not against any regulation on internet but I am against any control on internet....In control, there is no freedom...These rules attempt to control internet and curtail the freedom of expression."
Questioning the need for bringing new rules, he said there are already sufficient provisions under the IT Act
"The new rules go against the intent of Parliament ... they introduce private censorship...a central legislation's functions cannot be undertaken by the executive. If the government wants any change, it should come to Parliament," he said.
Rajeeve said, "the rules violate the principles of natural justice...This is a violation of the Constitution."
He rued that the advisory body to guide the Government on these rules under the IT Act has not been set up.
Lauding the role of technology, Jaitley said, "Had the internet existed in 1977, emergency would have been a fiasco."
He noted that internet, that came by virtue of technology, had the danger of inciting hate speech and frenzy in society and needs to be restrained.
Flagging concerns over the content on websites and social networking sites, Natchiappan said these can even create situations that can lead to collapse of government.
He said regulation on internet content was a "greatest challenge to civil society" and noted that the issue of controlling internet content was being taken up by even the United Nations.