The News Broadcasters Association - a group of 25 leading news and current affairs broadcasters - has challenged the government's new digital media rules in the Kerala High Court, on grounds that it gives authorities "excessive powers to unreasonably and impermissibly restrict (media's) freedom of speech and expression".
The NBA's petition also states that the rules - the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 - are ultra vires, or in violation of, the existing Information Technology Act of 2000, as well as Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution.
The specific challenge is to the creation of an oversight mechanism that provides the government with "unfettered, unbridled and excessive powers to regulate content of digital news media".
The NBA petition said that by creating such a structure the government had "... vested itself with powers reserved exclusively for the judiciary..."
The NBA also said the 'Code of Ethics' contains "vague, imprecise and ambiguous terms in relation to 'content' such as 'good taste', and 'snobbish attitude'", and were not in consonance with the Supreme Court ruling when it struck down Section 66A of the IT Act.
The NBA petition comes a day after the country's largest news agency - Press Trust of India, or PTI - also filed a legal challenge to the rules, in the Delhi High Court.
PTI had also challenged the constitutional validity of the new rules, claiming that it seeks to regulate "publishers of news and current affairs content" by imposing "sweeping" controls.
Last month the Digital News Publishers Association - which consists of 12 media houses, including The Indian Express Pvt. Ltd. and Times Internet Ltd., - filed a similar challenge in the Madras High Court.
On June 23 the Madras High Court issued a notice to the centre, asking for its response.
NDTV is a member of both the News Broadcasters Association and the Digital News Publishers Association.
Further, in separate pleas, four digital media houses and a news agency have also filed pleas in the Delhi High Court to strike down the new law.
The centre this week approached the Supreme Court to transfer all such pleas to itself; this plea is expected to be heard on Friday, according to news agency PTI.
Passed in February, the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 outlined, for the first time, how digital news organisations, social media platforms and OTT streaming services like Netflix would be regulated by the government.
The government said it wanted to establish "soft touch progressive institutional mechanism..." featuring a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news sites and OTT platforms.
Accordingly, all digital media sites will have to have a complaint resolution system with compliance officials, will monitor and remove objectionable content, and will issue compliance reports.
For news sites, the rules involve self-regulation by the publishers, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers and finally an oversight mechanism.
With input from PTI