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omorrow, the Supreme Court is set to review a petition submitted by comedian Kunal Kamra, requesting a temporary halt on the Central government’s announcement to establish Fact Check Units (FCUs) in accordance with the 2023 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules (IT Amendment Rules 2023).

Under the IT Amendment Rules of 2023, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology gains the authority to designate a fact-checking body capable of identifying and labeling online content it deems false or fake, particularly related to Central government activities.

Kamra argues in his petition that the implementation of FCUs would essentially pressure social media platforms into censoring content related to the Central government in their own interests, fearing legal repercussions if they fail to comply.

He highlights the redundancy of FCUs by pointing out the existence of established mechanisms like the Press Information Bureau (PIB) to combat fake news concerning the Central Government.

Previously, the Bombay High Court dismissed Kamra’s request for a stay on March 11, prompting him to escalate the matter to the Supreme Court.

The IT Amendment Rules of 2023, which amend the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, are currently being contested in multiple petitions before the High Court. A prior split verdict by a division bench of the High Court on January 31 has left the matter with a tie-breaker judge.

Kamra and fellow petitioners sought a halt on FCU formation until a final decision is made, but their plea was turned down by the High Court, leading to Kamra’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

His petition underscores that while the IT Rules ostensibly target intermediaries, it’s the users, particularly content creators, who bear the brunt of their impact. The broad scope of the Rules, according to Kamra, poses a threat to free speech, especially criticism of the Central Government.

Additionally, the petition raises concerns about due process, noting that FCUs could prompt social media platforms to take down content without prior notification to users, potentially resulting in arbitrary censorship.

Kamra’s appeal underscores the potential chilling effect of the Rules on public discourse and democracy, especially on political speech and citizens’ access to information.

The petition is slated for review tomorrow by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, along with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Written by- Pradyumn sharma.

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