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Twitter India MD Ready To Appear Before UP Police If Guaranteed Protection Against Arrest

Twitter India MD Ready To Appear Before UP Police If Guaranteed Protection Against Arrest

--Manish Maheshwari has been summoned by the Ghaziabad police for questioning over videos on Twitter showing the assault of a man in Ghaziabad.

--Maheshwari had offered to make a statement through video which was turned down by UP Police previously

--Twitter has lost its legal shield as an intermediary in India, becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content

Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari has told the Karnataka High Court he is ready to appear before police in Uttar Pradesh within 24 hours if he is guaranteed not to be arrested. He has been summoned by the Ghaziabad police for questioning over tweets showing the video of assault of a Muslim man in Ghaziabad.

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.

“If UP Police gives an undertaking to the court that they will not arrest me, I am ready to appear before the police in Ghaziabad within 24 hours,” Maheshwari’s lawyer told the court on Tuesday afternoon, reported NDTV.

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. But UP Police had turned down the offer, and insisted he appear in person. On 25th June, a bench of Justice G Narendar stated that the investigating authority was free to question Maheshwari through video conferencing in the case. 

UP Police – which last month sent Maheshwari a notice under a section legal provision that would have allowed his arrest, stated that it does seek to arrest him. The FIR has 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.

“Manish Maheshwari was summoned only as a representative of Twitter. Nothing more… nothing less… All we want to know is who is the in-charge of Twitter in India…,” UP Police was quoted as saying.

“Twitter is run by Twitter, Inc., based in the USA. This is not a secret guarded under Official Secrets Act. This is not rocket science. On what basis are you saying Twitter India is responsible (for not deleting tweets about the Ghaziabad case)?” it asked. UP Police said the matter is under investigation. 

The court adjourned the matter by a day to July 7. 

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.

Non-compliance with the digital rules would result in these platforms losing the intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. So far, Facebook, Google and Instagram have submitted their reports in compliance with the new IT rules. Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even took to Twitter to praise these tech giants. However, Twitter is still yet to submit the mandated report. Due to this, the microblogging platform has lost its legal shield as an intermediary in India, becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content.