NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the Facebook transfer petition matter on Monday stating that it requires a period of three months for finalising and notifying the final revised intermediary guidelines. In its affidavit, a copy of which ET has seen, MeitY has said that the process to notify the rules, which requires the approval of the intermediary rules by MeitY minister followed by the vetting by the ministry of law and justice and a subsequent approval of the updated draft by MeitY, is likely to be completed by January 15, 2020.
The matter is expected to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
In the previous hearing in the case on September 24, the apex court had asked MeitY to file an affidavit in three weeks on the status of the intermediary guidelines and to place on record the stage of framing and notifying the rules.
MeitY states in its affidavit that in view of the complexity involved in the matter and the significant impact it entails on the functioning of all stakeholders including netizens, various government departments, social media platforms, and websites and mobile apps, a ‘conscious’ and ‘bonafide’ decision was taken by the ministry to call for further inter ministerial consultation so that effective, robust and comprehensive rules covering all aspects of the matter can be framed.
“As internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity, it was felt that the extant rules be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries keeping in view the ever growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security… After collating and analysing all the details from stakeholder participation and inter ministerial consultation, the deponent has bonafide belief that a further period of three months would be required for finalising and notifying the final revised rules in accordance with law,” the affidavit filed by MeitY stated.
In August, Facebook and WhatsApp sought the transfer of petitions on linking social media accounts with Aadhaar from various high courts to the Supreme Court. While hearing the matter on September 24 and asking the government to notify the status on the intermediary guidelines the apex court had said that the main issue arising in the petitions is how and in what manner should the intermediaries provide information on the names of the originators of any message/content/information shared on the platforms.
“There are various messages and content spread/shared on social media some of which is harmful. Some messages can incite violence. There may be messages which are against the sovereignty and integrity of the country…in such circumstances it is imperative that there is a properly framed regime to find out the persons/institutions/bodies who are the originators of such content/messages. It may be necessary to get such information from the intermediaries,” the court had said while asking the ministry to give definite timelines in respect of completing the process of notifying the rules.
“There may be instances where even an individual may have the right to ask for information to protect his reputation and dignity. We are not sure whether any guidelines in this regard have been framed till date. This aspect may also be addressed,” the court had stated.

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