Social Media

Delhi HC expresses displeasure with Twitter

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on July 06, 2021

HC says it is in defiance of new IT Rules; Centre asserts it is playing with country’s digital sovereignty

Allowing Twitter a day’s time to explain when it will comply with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday observed that the social media giant is in defiance with the Rules and their attitude “is not permitted in this country”.

Justice Rekha Palli’s observations came a day after the Centre filed an affidavit in the High Court that, as stipulated by the new IT Rules, Twitter has not appointed Chief Compliance Officer, Resident Grievance Officer nor any Nodal Contact Person even on an interim basis and its physical contact address, which was shown to be available on May 29, 2021, is once again not available on Twitter website.

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The Government told the Court that Twitter Inc had initially appointed the Nodal Contact and Grievance Officer in the beginning but subsequently maintained that these officers have resigned from their positions. “In the interim, the grievances from India are being handled by personnel of Respondent No. 2 situated in the United States of America which amounts to non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021,” the Centre’s affidavit said.

‘Wrong information’

Clearly displeased with the fact that Twitter had not informed the Court that the Resident Grievance Officer it had appointed was in an “interim” capacity as also that he had quit the post two weeks back, Justice Palli said: “You (Twitter) never told me it was an interim officer. You told me it was a grievance officer but the affidavit (Centre’s affidavit) tells a different story… You have given wrong information to the court. The least that Twitter was expected to do was to appoint an officer in these two weeks.”

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The counsel for Twitter, Sajan Poovaya, admitted that the company does not have a grievance officer as required by the Rules. “An interim grievance officer was appointed, who was a lawyer. He continued for three weeks but the unions maintained that they will not accept an outsider. He withdrew three weeks later, on June 21. There is no grievance officer today,” said Poovaya.

To this, Justice Palli retorted: “I am not concerned about why he resigned. If Twitter thinks they can take as long as they take, this is not permitted in this country. Even if it happened, you should have taken steps to appoint someone in these 15 days. How long will your process take?”

When Poovaya said a process will be set in motion for appointment, Justice Palli asked him, “What is your process of appointment? Twitter is in defiance of the Rules.”

Twitter, on its part, maintained that it was already facing prosecution on multiple counts because the safe harbour immunity is not available to it.

To this, the Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said, “They are free to do business in India. But this prevarication cocks a snook at the digital sovereignty of this country.”

Justice Palli said she had already told Twitter that compliance is necessary and the Government can take whatever action they want if the company is in violation. “I have already told them. You are not making these submissions for me, I think,” Justice Palli said.

Published on July 06, 2021

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