“Have you ever examined the New IT Rules?”: Supreme Court on plea seeking directions for curbing hate messages on social media

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Supreme Court today adjourned the plea for next week, seeking directions to the Centre to form guidelines under the IT Act, 2000, concerning Hate messages, Islamophobic posts on Social Media.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice AS Bopanna, while hearing the matter today said,

“These matters are already pending before the Court… You want to raise it again?

Have you examined the new Intermediary Rules? It takes care of these things also…”

It was the submission of the Counsel that the new Rules only imposes certain due diligence to be adhered by the Social Media Intermediaries, without specifying “Islamophobic posts/content” against which the present petition was sought.

“My submission is different. It is related to Islamophobic posts. My prayer is to kindly tag it with the pending matter,” said the counsel.

Chief Justice Ramana seemed of the opinion that the prayer sought in the petition was addressed somewhere in the new IT Rules.

Drawn and filed by Khaja Aijazuddin, the plea challenges the order dated April 22, 2021 passed by High Court of Telangana (“impugned judgement”) whereby the Court directed petitioner to approach the Top Court for relief with regards to directing Cabinet Secretary, Government of India and Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs to restrain  all online social media networks operating in India and not to carry out any Islamophobic posts or messages hurting or insulting the feelings of a particular community. 

An absence of the Guidelines as envisaged under the provisions of IT Act, 2000,pertaining to hate messages against any Religious Community including Islamophobic posts on various Social Media platforms, including, but not restricted to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, amongst others and all the online Social media networks of sites operating in Territorial Jurisdiction of India for which Respondent Nos. 1, 2 & 6 have got authority and control under law to act upon, to see that rule of law is followed in toto”, the plea states.

The petition states that as a result of massive publicity given by media on COVID positive cases found from Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin, Delhi, there were trending Tweets attaching Muslim religion to the cause of spread of coronavirus. 

The plea therefore while seeking for setting aside the impugned judgement also seeks interim relief for directing appropriate agency CBI or NIA to conduct investigation against Twitter and its users who were involved in inflammatory posts.