Delhi High Court gives Twitter 'last opportunity' to show compliance with IT rules

Twitter, delhi high court, IT rules, Information Technology Rules, ministry of electronics and information technology, Compliance, grievance officer, justice rekha palli, Twitter India, told the court, submit an affidavit , quashed a notice

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said Twitter was in total non-compliance of the Information Technology Rules and granted the American social networking company one week time as a “last opportunity” to file better affidavits showing its compliance.

A single judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli said that affidavits filed by the company “clearly show total non-compliance of the rules. One week’s time as a last opportunity is granted to file a better affidavit in terms of the earlier orders passed by the court”.

The court further ordered that the affidavit to be filed must clearly state the details of the third-party contract worker Twitter has appointed as its chief compliance officer and resident grievance officer.

It also asked the company to furnish reasons as to why a nodal contact person was not appointed until now, and by when such a person would be appointed.

Senior counsel Sajan Poovayya appearing on behalf of Twitter assured the court that a clearly worded and transparent affidavit would be filed by the company.

Poovayya also told the court that Twitter has separately written to the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) informing it of the appointments, and that the ministry was yet to respond to the company.

The court was hearing a plea filed by Amit Acharya, a practising advocate in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, against Twitter Inc, where he has alleged the company’s non-compliance with the new IT Rules as he could not find details of Twitter’s resident grievance officer on the company’s website to report tweets that he had found objectionable.

The government early this month told the court in an affidavit that Twitter had lost the immunity granted to intermediaries under the IT Act, 2000, after it failed to comply with the new intermediary guidelines. Twitter had also admitted that it had breached the timelines for compliance of the new IT Rules that came into effect from May 26.

“Twitter is definitely bound to comply. There seems to be some misapprehension in their minds that they are not amenable to the laws in India. As long as they are non-compliant they run the risk of being held liable for content posted on their platform,” said N S Nappinai, Supreme Court laywer and founder of Cyber Saathi.

The high court on July 8 had given the social network time of two weeks to submit an affidavit confirming the appointment of the three key executives and setting up of a permanent address of contact, which are mandated under the revised IT Rules.

Twitter in its affidavit told the court that it had appointed a third-party contractor in the position of chief compliance officer and resident grievance officer. It also filed a memo on Tuesday stating that it has received verbal confirmation from a person who will fill the position of nodal contact person, as it wasn’t able to complete joining formalities yet.

The American tech firm has said that it is unable to appoint permanent staff in the key three positions as it does not have a liaison office in India, unlike its peers Google and Facebook. It has told the high court that it will endeavour to fill the positions and is in the process of setting up a local office in India.

The matter will be heard next on August 6.

“Twitter is soon going to have to see the writing on the wall that there’s no going back from IT Rules 2021, till such a time that the courts do not set it aside,” said Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who has worked on India’s IT Act. “Since they’ve not complied with the law, they’ve automatically been stripped of their statutory exemption from legal liability and that’s the reason why four FIRs have been lodged against them. More could come.”

The micro-blogging platform currently faces lawsuits in several courts over content posted by third-parties on its platform after it lost its immunity granted to intermediaries under the IT Act.

Last week, the Karnataka High Court quashed a notice issued by the UP Police to Twitter’s India managing director Manish Maheshwari summoning him to appear in-person for questioning at a Ghaziabad police station.

The court had said that the notice was issued without jurisdiction and was an “arm twisting” method used by the investigating authorities who had failed to ascertain whether Maheshwari had any power to control content posted on the social media platform. The FIR filed by the Ghaziabad police, however, still stands.

“It is possibly due to the non-cooperation and/or failure to accept accountability by big tech that the Indian government has been constrained to push for these three offices to be India based and held by Indian residents,” Nappinai added.

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