Kunal Kamra, a political satirist, filed a petition at the Bombay High Court to declare the fact-check amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, as unconstitutional.
This marks the first legal challenge to the 6 April amendment, with the Internet Freedom Foundation providing assistance to Kamra.
The Information Technology (IT) Ministry has added the fact-check amendment to its IT Amendment Rules, 2023.
This requires intermediaries, including social media platforms, to take down any government-related content, such as schemes, found to be false, fake, or misleading by the government's fact-check unit.
Failure to do so could result in the platform losing safe harbour provisions.
The Bombay High Court on 11 April instructed the IT Ministry to file its response in a week's time.
It sought an explanation for why the amendment should not be stayed as well as the factual background and reasoning behind the amendment.
The next hearing is set for 21 April.
Critics of the move argue that the government's fact-check amendment could potentially provide the government with excessive power to censor any news that is critical of the administration on social media.
Its implementation could have the same impact as censorship without directly censoring a news website, they say, because of the widespread reach of social media, explains a MediaNama report.
The move also doesn't provide users with a chance to defend their content before it is labelled as inaccurate.
Plus, argue critics, the amendment infringes on the court's exclusive role to resolve disputes, including between the state and citizens, and determine facts related to such conflicts, the media report says.
The Minister of State for IT & Electronics, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, told the Economic Times upon notification of the rules: “This is not some attempt to censor. It is not mandatory that one has to take down what the notified organisation says, but then you have to deal with it in the court of law.”
The Union government is said to have held consultations with various stakeholders like YouTube before bringing out the new rules.
The fact-check unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has already identified more than 1,000 instances of fake news related to the government since it was set up, in 2019.
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