Breach of IT Rules: Won’t protect you, Delhi High Court tells Twitter

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July 09, 2021 4:45 AM

Questioning Twitter engaging services of an “interim” officer through a third party contractor, Sharma sought full compliance with Indian law.

The microblogging site also informed that it had appointed an Indian resident as interim chief compliance officer on July 6, whose services have been engaged via a third-party contractor.

The Delhi High Court on Thursday categorically told Twitter it was in violation of the May 26 deadline to comply with the new Information Technology (IT) Rules, and therefore, the court will not extend any protection to it in case the government takes any action against it for breach of law.

“Won’t protect you if Centre takes any action against you…You are actually in contempt as you didn’t follow what you said that day… You are already in violation of deadline,” the high court said.

Justice Rekha Palli also questioned Twitter for using prefix “interim” in appointing resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer or nodal officer, and directed it to file an affidavit that these interim officials would be fully responsible for the company’s conduct under IT Rules and would take full responsibility of the tasks assigned to them.

Taking a tough stand, the court refused to give eight weeks’ time, as sought by Twitter, to comply with the rules and directed it to file a notarised and scanned affidavit in this regard within two weeks. The matter has been posted for next hearing on July 28.

The court also observed that Twitter had committed contempt of court by not filing a final affidavit despite having resolved to do so in the previous hearing.

Reiterating that no action has so far been taken by the court against the microblogging platform, the Centre, through Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, argued that no American court would have ever granted such a leeway to an Indian pharma or an IT company.

“I have told them they have to comply with the rules. I am not giving them any protection. If they are in defiance, you are free to take action. I have already made it clear if they want to work, they have to follow rules,” Justice Palli told Sharma.

Questioning Twitter engaging services of an “interim” officer through a third party contractor, Sharma sought full compliance with Indian law.

Earlier in the day, Twitter filed an affidavit before the HC seeking an eight-week time period for appointment of nodal and grievance officers to comply with the new IT Rules. However, the social media firm said it had a right to challenge the legality of the IT Rules, but maintained that it was striving to comply with the Indian law.

Indicating that it will present its first compliance report under the new digital rules to the Centre by July 11, Twitter in its reply to HC said “the company will take eight weeks to comply with the appointment of the resident grievance redressal officer. The company is also in the process of setting up a liaison office in India. The liaison office in India will be the permanent physical contact address for all communication under the new IT Rules”.

Senior lawyer Sajan Poovayya on behalf of Twitter submitted that opening of a permanent office in India will lead to tax issues, and thus the company is using the fourth floor, The Estate, 121 Dickenson Road, Bengaluru 560 042, as its physical contact address.

The microblogging site also informed that it had appointed an Indian resident as interim chief compliance officer on July 6, whose services have been engaged via a third-party contractor.

Explaining the use of the word “interim” in its affidavit, Poovayya argued that it made interim appointments as it doesn’t have a permanent office in India and also assured the court that its legal obligations under IT Rules will be fulfilled by interim officers.

As reported earlier, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) had on Monday informed the Delhi High Court that Twitter has not complied with the IT Rules and therefore lost the immunity given to an intermediary under Section 79 of the IT Act.

In its affidavit, MeitY said in spite of the three months’ time granted to all significant social media intermediaries to comply with the IT Rules 2021 having expired on May 26, Twitter failed to fully comply with the same.

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