Statement: In response to a takedown order by MIB, The Caravan has taken down its article pertaining to killings by the Army stationed in Jammu & Kashmir

In response to a takedown order by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under Section 69A of the IT Act and the IT Rules, 2021, The Caravan has taken down its article pertaining to killings by the Army stationed in Jammu & Kashmir. 

14 February, 2024
2 min read

In response to a takedown order by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under Section 69A of the IT Act and the IT Rules, 2021, The Caravan has taken down its article pertaining to killings by the Army stationed in Jammu & Kashmir. 

The notice issued was under the IT Rules pursuant to which, reportedly, an Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) meeting was held before which a member of The Caravan appeared. After the meeting, a blocking order was issued for takedown content related to the article. 

As the trend of arbitrary and opaque content takedown continues, what stands out in this instance is the functioning of the Inter-Departmental Committee. Let’s see what the issue is all about. 

The IDC is constituted under Rule 14 of IT Rules, 2021, and consists of representatives from I&B Ministry, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Law & Justice Ministry, MHA, MeitY, MEA, Ministry of Defence, and such other Ministries and Orgs, including domain experts. Under Rule 14(2), the IDC is tasked with periodically meeting and hearing complaints regarding violations or contraventions of the Code of Ethics. 

But, wait - isn’t this Code of Ethics not operational as of now? Yup. In 2021, the Bombay HC, followed by the Madras HC, in pleas against IT Rules, 2021, stayed Rules 9(1) & 9(3) which mandate digital news media & online publishers to adhere to the Code of Ethics. IFF assisted in the matters before Madras HC. 

The HC observed that Rules 9(1) & 9(3) infringed Article 19(1)(a) and went against the IT Act, 2000. But when the question of staying Rule 14 arose, the HC said as the IDC has not been constituted at that point of time, there was no “immediate urgency” to stay Rule 14. 

The petitions challenging the IT Rules, 2021, were transferred to the Supreme Court and all proceedings before the HCs were stayed on May 9, 2022. But the directions given by the HCs are still in play. It has been 646 days since then. 

Quite concerning, right? It seems like the IDC is functioning, and issuing takedown orders as well. When was it notified, who are its members, what decisions have they taken till now, and how are they overseeing violation of a Code which has been stayed - well, no one knows. 

We are deeply perturbed by the arbitrary & opaque actions being taken that disproportionately impact one’s right to free speech & right to practice one’s profession. We have also filed an RTI seeking answers to these questions. We will keep you updated once we receive a response.

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