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Supreme Court admits IAMAI's writ against IT Act

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | September 01, 2014
The Petition challenges the arbitrary powers granted under the IT Act 2000 to the government to order intermediaries to remove user-generated content.

The Internet And Mobile Association of India's (IAMAI) Writ Petition challenging Sec 79 (3) (b) of the Information Technology Act 2000, and rules framed thereunder has been admitted by the Supreme Court of India. A bench comprising Justices Jasti Chelameswar and Arjan Kumar Sikri accepted the petition.


The Petition challenges the arbitrary powers granted under the IT Act 2000 and the Rules framed under the Act, to the government to order intermediaries to remove user generated content. The Central Government had notified the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 in April 2011. The rules, which seek to control the intermediaries, end up controlling the actions of users. As these rules attempt to cover a wide range of activities through a duplicate, complicated structure - neither the industry nor the end users are able to understand the boundaries of their rights and duties.

IAMAI believes that certain definitions and words used in the Act and the Rules are such that they harm the interests of the citizens/users, and also are a great impediment to the Safe Harbor Provisions granted under the same Act to the intermediaries.

Intermediaries are entities that provide services enabling the delivery of online content to the end user. The players involved include internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, DNS providers, web hosts, interactive websites like Facebook and Twitter and Cyber Cafes.

Since the passing of the rules in 2011, the association has approached the Government repeatedly for revising some of the provisions. The Parliamentary Standing Committee convened to review the provisions of the IT Act 2000, had also noted lack of precise definitions, and inbuilt checks and balances existing in the Act.

Also, in 2013, the then leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha had raised certain concerns about the IT Act 2000. However, no action taken by the authorities to overcome the defects that were pointed out.

This prompted IAMAI to approach the Supreme Court so that an objective interpretation of the laws could be obtained. The admission today allows the industry an opportunity to argue for a clear Safe Harbour Provision for the intermediaries, which is an essential pre-condition of a thriving digital content business.

Intermediaries provide important tools and platforms that allow users to access the Internet, host content, share files and transact business. Websites like Blogspot, Youtube and Facebook only provide a platform for users to post their content, and do not have any editorial control over this content.

Governments across the world realised that these intermediaries must be given protection from legal liability that could arise out of illegal content posted by users, considering the importance of these intermediaries in the online space and the fact that their mode of operation was quite different from the traditional brick-and-mortar business. Countries like the US and members of the European Union provide protection to intermediaries from such user-generated content.

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