New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday stayed further proceedings before the high courts in matters involving challenges to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 or the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules 2021.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and A S Oka passed the order while hearing a batch of petitions, including those raising the issue of hate speech and seeking regulations for OTT (over-the-top) platforms.
“We direct stay of further proceedings pending before the high courts in the respective cases or to be filed hereafter until the next date of hearing involving a challenge to the IT Rules or Cable TV (Amendment) Rules, which are the subject matter of proceedings in these cases,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on May 19.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that there are several petitions in the matter pending before the apex court.
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He said some high courts have stayed the statutory regulations and the Centre has filed special leave petitions (SLPs) against those orders. “Can your lordships consider granting stay so far as transfer petitions are concerned so that no further orders are passed,” Mehta said.
The bench also issued notices on the petitions before it in which notices were not yet issued.
After the apex court stayed further proceedings before the high courts in these matters, one of the advocates appearing in the matter said they had filed a petition before the Kerala High Court which had passed an interim order.
“We are not interfering with those interim orders as of now,” the bench observed.
At the outset, the Solicitor General told the bench that the government has provided some regulations for OTT platforms, online platforms, intermediaries, and online news.
He referred to the fresh petition where a stay of proceedings pending before various high courts has been sought.
“Some high courts have stayed the statutory regulations. We have filed SLPs,” he said.
The bench asked whether notices have been issued on those SLPs.
Mehta said notices have not been issued in these SLPs and he believes that the respondents are before the apex court on caveat.
“We will issue a notice in all fresh matters including transfer cases,” the bench said.
“Issue notice in all cases where it is yet to be issued,” it said.
The top court noted in its order that the Solicitor General has assured to prepare a chart of cases involving a challenge to the IT rules, challenge to the Cable TV amendment rules, and petitions generally seeking directions for evolving mechanism which would be touching upon the subject matter of IT rules.
The apex court also noted that it was urged before it that since the new IT rules have come into force, some of the petitions pending before it may not survive for further consideration.
It said the other set of matters involves pleas raising the issue of hate speeches and hate crimes.
The bench said this set of cases would be listed separately on May 19.