NEW DELHI: India pushed back vigorously against the remarks of UN special rapporteurs on the country’s new IT rules, describing them as “misplaced, exaggerated and disingenuous” in the context of presumed scenarios that are not founded in reality.
“The concern that the rules may be misused deliberately to make a large number of complaints so as to overwhelm the grievance redressal mechanisms created by social media platforms is misplaced, exaggerated and disingenuous and shows lack of willingness to address grievances of the users of these media platforms while using their data to earn revenues,” India’s permanent mission to the UN said in a letter.
Emphasising that the Indian government respected the right to privacy, the letter said, “The concerns alleging potential implications for freedom of expression that the new IT rules will entail is highly misplaced. India’s democratic credentials are well recognised. The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The independent judiciary and a robust media are part of India’s democratic structure.”
“The rules are designed to empower ordinary users of social media. The victims of abuse on social media platforms shall have a forum for redressal of their grievances,” the government said.
A letter sent by the UN rapporteurs to the Indian government on June 11 had said. “We worry that the new rules may provide authorities with the power to censor journalists who expose information of public interest and individuals who report on human rights violations in an effort to hold the government accountable.”
Responding to the letter, India said, “ministries concerned undertook broad consultations in 2018 with various stakeholders, including individuals, civil society, industry association and organisations and invited public comments to prepare the draft rules. Thereafter, an inter-ministerial meeting had discussed the comments received in detail and, accordingly, the rules were finalised.”
The new IT rules, or the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were notified by the central government on February 25.
The government said, “Only when a message already in public circulation is giving rise to violence, impinging on the unity and integrity of India, depicting a woman in bad light, or sexual abuse of a child and when no other intrusive options are working, only then the social media intermediary will be required to disclose as to who started the message.”