In a rejoinder to the UN Special Rapporteurs who had commented that India’s new IT Rules do not meet international human rights norms, India has firmly said that these rules were formulated only after wide ranging discussions in 2018.
In a letter to the UN Human Rights Council, India’s Permanent Mission to UN pointed out that India’s Ministry of Information Technology and Information and Broadcasting undertook broad consultations in 2018 with various stakeholders, including individuals, civil society, industry associations and organisations and invited public comments to prepare the draft rules.
Thereafter, an inter-ministerial meeting had discussed in detail the comments received and accordingly the Rules were finalised, India said in the letter.
“The Permanent Mission of India would also like to highlight that 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 robust media are part of India’s democratic structure”, the letter said.
UN Special Rapporteurs at United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commissioner have said in a report that it is concerned that India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in their current form, do not conform with international human rights norms.
“As noted in previous communications sent to your Excellency’s Government, we are concerned that these new rules come at a time of a global pandemic and of large-scale farmer protests in the country, where the enjoyment of the freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to receive information, and the right to privacy, is particularly important for the realization of several other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights”, the report said.
“We would like to recall that restrictions to freedom of expression must never be invoked as a justification for the muzzling of any advocacy of multiparty democracy, democratic tenets and human rights”, the report said.