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MouthShut.com challenges IT Rules 2011 in SC

MUMBAI: India’s online community for consumer reviews MouthShut.com has challenged the Information Technology Rules 2011 in a writ petition before the Supreme Court. The case is scheduled for hearing on 13 January.

The plea seeks to declare the IT Rules as violation of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantee freedom of expression. MouthShut.com will be represented by senior counsel Harish Salve.

MouthShut.com founder and CEO Faisal Farooqui said, “We are pleading with the highest court in the land to protect the rights of Indian citizens and consumers that are granted by the Constitution of India.”

The online community approached the Supreme Court with a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, to retract India’s Information Technology Rules 2011 that jeopardises the freedom of expression. Mouthshut.com has stuck to its own policy of taking down content only under legal coercion.

But the IT rules state that ‘any affected person’ can simply send an email to request the removal of any content within 36 hours or they can lose their ‘safe harbour’ protection as an ‘intermediary, pay damages, legal fee and court time’. As per the plea, web-based organisations need to have a difference between free expression and making feasible services.

Farooqui added, “We have been threatened with hundreds of legal notices, cybercrime complaints and defamation cases. At other times, officers from various police stations call our office, demanding deletion of various reviews or face dire consequences under the IT rules. This law has the potential to weaken or, worse, entirely corrode the robust protection that the Constitution of India offers to the freedom of speech.”

MouthShut.com was established in 2000 to gain consumer feedback on products and services. It provides consumers the ability to write reviews on any product or service offered in India. Several reviews have been written over the last decade and they are made available free of cost to everyone. The feedback also allows businesses to learn from consumer experience and improve the quality of their offerings.