Home » SC stays Centre’s notification on Fact-Check Unit under PIB, says “freedom of expression” important

SC stays Centre’s notification on Fact-Check Unit under PIB, says “freedom of expression” important

by Jeet Akoijam
0 comment 2 minutes read
SC stays Centre’s notification on Fact-Check Unit under PIB, says “freedom of expression” important

IT News
Imphal, Mar 21:

Supreme Court has halted the implementation of the notification issued by the Centre, which directed the Fact Check Unit within the Press Information Bureau to address the issue of fake news. This SC decision on Thursday overturns the Bombay High Court’s approval of the government’s action.
A bench led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud nullified the Bombay High Court’s March 11 ruling, which had declined to grant a temporary halt to the establishment of the FCU under the amended IT Rules, aimed at identifying fake and false content on social media concerning the Union government. The bench stated that the issues raised before the High Court pertain to fundamental questions regarding Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution.
It further expressed the opinion that the notification dated March 20, 2024, issued after the denial of interim relief, should be suspended. The challenge to the validity of Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 involves significant constitutional concerns, and the potential impact of the rule on freedom of speech and expression warrants examination by the high court. Rule 3(1)(b)(v) designates the FCU as the principal agency responsible for addressing or alerting about any fake news or misinformation pertaining to the central government.
The notification was issued shortly after the Bombay High Court refused to prevent the Centre from establishing the unit. The petition challenging this move was filed by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and the Editors Guild of India. In April of the previous year, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology introduced the 2023 Rules, which amended the Information Technology Rules of 2021.
According to the new regulations, if the fact-checking unit encounters or receives reports about any posts deemed “fake,” “false,” or containing “misleading” information related to government affairs, it would alert social media intermediaries. These intermediaries would then be required to remove such content if they wished to maintain their legal immunity, known as “safe harbor,” against third-party content.
As per an official announcement from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Wednesday, the Fact Check Unit operating within the Press Information Bureau will serve as the central government’s designated fact-checking entity. This designation of the Fact Check Unit aligns with the provisions outlined in the Information Technology Rules of 2021. The notification explicitly states, “The central government hereby designates the Fact Check Unit under the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as the official fact-checking unit of the Central Government, with regards to any matters pertaining to the Central Government’s activities.”

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