MouthShut.com’s plea challenging IT Rules 2011 to come up for hearing in SC

The writ petition filed before the Supreme Court by MouthShut.com, India’s online community for consumer reviews, challenging the Information Technology Rules, 2011 will come up for hearing on January 6, 2014. 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, Mr Harish Salve.

MouthShut.com approached India’s highest appellate court, the Supreme Court, with a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, to rescind India’s Information Technology Rules 2011 that jeopardises the freedom of expression. The appeal declares the IT Rules to be offensive under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. “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,” said Mr Faisal Farooqui, Founder & CEO, MouthShut.com.

Mouthshut.com has stuck to its own policy of taking down content only under legal coercion. But the IT rules stating 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’. Web-based organisations need to have a difference between free expression and making feasible services.

Farooqui further 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.”

Farooqui said, “It is a privilege to be a citizen of a democracy like India, where an ordinary citizen can appeal to a powerful court. Laws are meant to ensure the well-being of the nation – its people and institutions. Despite good intentions, IT Rules fall short of doing that. 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, India’s first and largest online community for consumer feedback on products and services was established in 2000. 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. This space is a highly trusted destination for consumers, who wish to refer for better information and reviews before making purchasing decisions. The feedback also allows businesses to learn from consumer experience and improve the quality of their offerings.