The Karnataka High Court on Thursday granted interim relief to Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari. The court directed Uttar Pradesh Police to not take any coercive action against him in the case relating to a viral video of an attack on an elderly person, which was uploaded on the microblogging platform.
The Uttar Pradesh (UP) police on June 15 lodged a first information report (FIR) against Twitter, media publication The Wire, and others regarding a series of Tweets that allegedly showed an elderly man being assaulted in Ghaziabad.
The FIR invoked sections including IPC Section 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) against them.
A bench of Justice G Narendar stated that the investigating authority was free to question Maheshwari through video conferencing in the case, reported ET. The court was hearing the petition filed by Maheshwari against the UP Police, challenging its jurisdiction in asking him to appear at a police station in Ghaziabad to be questioned in the case.
Maheshwari had been summoned by the Ghaziabad Police to appear before a Loni Border Police Station on June 24 in connection with a FIR filed against the company for failing to pull down a video of the attack on an elderly person.
In an email response to the first notice sent to him on June 17, Maheshwari had offered to make a statement through video. He told the Ghaziabad Police that Twitter Communications India Private Limited does not exercise any control of the information/data pertaining to the users of the services of Twitter in India.
“The investigation is with respect to content available on the Twitter platform, services for which are provided in India by Twitter Inc, a company incorporated in the United States of America,” Maheshwari’s response to the Ghaziabad Police on June 18 read, according to the report. “TCIPL does not exercise any control over the services offered by Twitter.”
Maheshwari also said that he was also not a board member of Twitter India. Lawyers representing Maheshwari told the court, on Thursday, that the Ghaziabad Police responded to Maheshwari’s emailed response by directing him to appear before them through a second notice under Section 41A of the IPC on June 21. This section pertains to persons against whom there is “reasonable suspicion” of committing a cognizable offence.
While hearing the petition filed by Maheshwari, the court questioned the respondent as to how issuance of the notice under Section 41A was justified. Lawyers representing the Ghaziabad Police told the court that it was likely due to collection of additional material pertaining to the case between June 18 to June 21, and not just as a response to Maheshwari’s response to the investigating officer.
The Judge, while directing the respondent to place such materials before the court for examination, set the next date for hearing on June 29.
The UP police FIR also named AltNews reporter Mohammad Zubair, prominent journalist Rana Ayub, Congress’s Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani and Shama Mohamed, writer Saba Naqvi and social media giant Twitter’s US and India entities.
Twitter has been at odds with the Union government over the implementation of the country’s new controversial IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules that was enacted on May 26th. On June 16, multiple news outlets quoted unnamed government sources who said that “Twitter cannot seek safe harbour under the new Information Technology Act. In any case filed after May 26, Twitter cannot say it is an intermediary and claim exception”.
Under the new law, all intermediaries such as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others are required to appoint compliance officers including chief compliance officers, resident grievance officers and other employees specifically to deal with the requirements under the law.