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UN Special Rapporteurs Express Concern Over India’s New IT Rules

New Delhi: United Nations experts have expressed concern over India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in the current form. The Human Rights Commissioner experts said the IT rules do not conform with international human rights norms.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, and Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci authored the report.

“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 realisation of several other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights,” said the report.

“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 further said.

According to the report, India has the potential to develop legislation that can place it at the forefront of efforts to protect digital rights as a global leader in technology innovation.

“We would therefore encourage the Government to take all necessary steps to carry out a detailed review of the Rules and to consult with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society dealing with human rights, freedom of expression, privacy rights and digital rights,” it said.

“We understand the new Rules were issued under the Information Technology Act of 2000 and therefore, were not subject to parliamentary review or opened for consultation with stakeholders. We believe such consultations with relevant stakeholders are essential in order to ensure the final text is compatible with India’s international legal obligations, in particular with Articles 17 and 19 of the ICCPR,” the report added.

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