Willing to Amend IT Rules 2021 As Ecosystem Grows: MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is willing to amend the IT Rules 2021 as the ecosystem grows, said Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the open house discussion around the draft IT Intermediary Rules on June 23.

He added that “openness, safety and trust, accountability, and full compliance with the Indian Constitution and legal requirements are the four boundary criteria” for policy and rulemaking around the Internet.

Over 100 people attended the open house consultation on the rules that included officials from Meta, industry bodies like Nasscom, Assocham and Broadband India Forum and cyber security experts such as Pavan Duggal and Anuj Agarwal.

“I have said all along that these are constantly going to evolve in consultation with the stakeholders involved. So even if we agree that there will be an appellate tribunal model to the appellate committee model today, there is nothing that says that we will not be able to change it into a self-regulatory or self-regulated mechanism one year down the road or six months,” the minister added.

On June 6, MeitY posted a new draft notification asking for feedback from the intermediary (social media) companies regarding changes to Parts I and II of the IT Rules, 2021, and whether to establish one or more Appellate Committees with the authority to overturn these companies’ content moderation decisions.

Companies shouldn’t use increased compliance costs as an excuse to break the law, according to Chandrasekhar, who also said that it will always be more expensive to comply with standards than not.

However, the minister said: “At this stage, we will go ahead with the Appellate Committee. But I make a solemn commitment to you that if you come back with a self-regulatory framework that works and that meets the test of transparency and accountability, we are very happy to move to that from the moment you are ready with such a framework.”

However, several stakeholders during the discussion voiced objections to the ministry’s proposal that social media intermediaries notice and address user complaints within 72 hours, while others recommended that the ministry should make clear how the grievance appeal panels would operate.

So, while addressing the concerns related to social media, the minister said: “The government has no interest in creating multiple layers of dispute resolution…in a way, this is a decent set for platforms or intermediaries who are not doing their jobs.”

“You can’t just appoint a grievance officer and say ‘I am done with my responsibility with all’. Responsibility/ accountability is for the grievance officer to dispose of the grievance in a fair and equitable manner,” he added.

Meanwhile, some participants in the consultation conference recommended the government change the more comprehensive IT Act.

In response, Chandrasekhar said: “Where we are today is in my opinion a mezzanine stage of where we are in the evolution of our jurisprudence, rules and laws.”

As per the minister, since the IT Act is 22 years old law, “we are bolting on, retrofitting, band-aiding to get to a safer internet, and we need a new contemporary law and we are working on that”.

While providing assurance for the new laws, he noted that “a lot of stuff today that you think is slightly vague and will need a court to interpret it, will find itself in the law”.

According to Chandrasekhar, “This gives you a directional view on the way we think about where the digital citizens ought to be in this equation between platform or intermediaries on one hand and citizens on the other hand.”

However, on June 23, the MeitY requested that the ministry get further written copies of the ideas from the stakeholders by July 6.

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