Tough Stance: Delhi HC says govt free to act against Twitter

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July 07, 2021 4:30 AM

Slams microblogging site for misleading court on grievance officer appointment

The physical address which which was shown to be there on May 29, 2021 is once again not available on Twitter's website.The physical address which which was shown to be there on May 29, 2021 is once again not available on Twitter's website.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that the government was free to take action against microblogging site Twitter as by defying the Indian laws it has lost its intermediary status.

“We are not stopping you from taking action. The court has not granted any protection to Twitter. If they are in violation, you know what to do…I am not giving them any protection. I have already made it clear that they have to comply,” Justice Rekha Palli told additional solicitor general Chetan Sharma.

The court’s observation came in response to ASG’s submission that after notifying the IT Rules in February, the government had given a three-month window to social media firms to comply, but Twitter hasn’t done so even though over 40 days have passed since the deadline.

However, the court gave Twitter time till Thursday to clarify its stand with regard to compliance with the new IT Rules, including appointment of a resident grievance officer.

Noting that Twitter was yet to appoint a resident grievance officer as is mandated under the new IT Rules, Justice Palli observed that non-appointment of the officer implies that Twitter is in defiance of Indian law, and it can’t take as much time as it wants to comply.

“If Twitter thinks it can take as long it wants in our country, I will not allow that…Come up with a clear response, otherwise you (Twitter) will be in trouble,” the bench warned senior counsel Sajan Poovayya, appearing for Twitter.

The HC also took exception to the difference between Twitter’s oral submissions during the previous hearing and its affidavit. The judge pointed out that Twitter’s counsel never told the HC that the company was going to appoint an interim grievance officer, rather it was the affidavit which revealed the position. “You have misled the court and gave a wrong impression. Be that as it may, the least Twitter can do was appoint another officer after June 21. We are concerned with the compliance,” it said.

Poovayya informed the bench that he could not contact the company’s officials in San Francisco due to the difference in the time zone after Justice Palli questioned how much time does it take to appoint a grievance officer, as over 15 days have passed since the interim grievance officer Dharmendra Chatur resigned on June 21.

The HC said it expects the Twitter’s counsel to be ready with the company’s stand on compliance and the current situation by Thursday, and will hear all other arguments afterwards.

Poovayya also submitted that Twitter was in process of appointing a grievance officer and maintained that grievance raised by the petitioner relating to uploaded content was addressed on time.

As reported earlier, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) had on Monday informed the Delhi HC 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 has said in spite of the three months granted to all significant social media intermediaries to comply with the IT Rules 2021 having expired on May 26, Twitter has failed to fully comply with the same.

Failure of Twitter to comply fully with the new rules has been attributed to the following reasons. The platform has till date not appointed a chief compliance officer. The position of resident grievance officer is also vacant, and the position of nodal contact person, even on an interim basis, is vacant. The physical address which which was shown to be there on May 29, 2021 is once again not available on Twitter’s website.

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