On July 8, the Delhi High Court stated that the Union government can initiate action against tech giant Twitter if it failed to comply with the IT Rules. The court also objected to the appointment of interim officers three times.
Justice Rekha Palli gave two weeks’ time to Twitter to submit hard copies of the notarized affidavits of a competent officer. However, the scanned copies of the affidavit must be filed by July 13. The court also asked Twitter to submit another affidavit of the officer already appointed and the persons who are being appointed by the company.
Court: Two weeks time is granted. But scanned copies of affidavits of persons being appointed will be filed by two days. No interim order protecting Twitter. It will be open for Centre to take action against Twitter in case of any breach of the Rules#Twitter #DelhiHighCourt— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 8, 2021
While adjourning the hearing till July 28, the court said, “It is made clear that since this court has only granted time to Twitter to file its affidavits to show compliance of the rules and there is no interim protection granted, it will be open for the Union of India to take action against Twitter in accordance with rules in case of any breach of the rules.”
‘Engaging with Centre’: Twitter
In its reply to the court, Twitter said that it has engaged with the Centre multiple times in connection to the requirements under the new IT Rules that includes the issue of the liability of appointed officers under Rule 4. The tech giant also said that it would submit the first Compliance Report covering the dates between May 26 and June 25 latest, by July 11.
The micro-blogging site also told the court that it had engaged frequently with the Centre in respect of the requirements under the Rules, including on the issue of the concerned ministry “developing standard operating procedures as regards, in part, the liability of various officers appointed under Rule 4.”
It further added that it has the right to challenge the legality, validity, and vires of the Rules. “Twitter’s submissions regarding compliance are filed without prejudice to its right to challenge the Rules,” it said. It said that an interim Chief Compliance Officer who is a resident of India had been appointed effective July 6. The post of Nodal Contact Officer would be filled as per the requirement of the Rules, on an interim basis, within two weeks. An interim Resident Grievance Officer would be appointed before July 11.
Twitter also stated that the are in the process of setting up a permanent liaison office in India.
The company added, “Twitter intends to engage the services of the interim RGO as a contingent worker via a third party contractor. The details of this appointment will be updated on our Help Page as soon as possible.”
Court not pleased with the reply
The Delhi High Court was not pleased with the reply. Justice Rekha Palli said during the hearing that she had mentioned at the beginning itself that if there are Rules, Twitter has to comply with them.
We are making these appointments without prejudice to our right to challenge the IT Rules, 2021: Poovayya— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 8, 2021
I had said that from the start. As long as the Rules are there, you have to comply: Court#ITRules #Twitter #DelhiHighCourt
The court also rejected hearing the argument related to the ‘media trial’. The court further added that Twitter was already in contempt of the Rules.
There will be an affidavit to this effect. You cannot say that the language that has been used in the filing amounts to concept: Poovayya— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 8, 2021
Technically, you are already in contempt, but I am not getting into that: Justice Rekha Palli#ITRules #Twitter #DelhiHighCourt
In its order, the court said, “No interim order protecting Twitter. It will be open for Centre to take action against Twitter in case of any breach of the Rules.”
Twitter vs Indian Government
Tech giant Twitter and the Indian government have locked horns over the recently passed IT Rules that made it mandatory for the social media platforms to have compliance officers residing in India so that the concerns can be addressed quickly. Twitter has been abusing its position for long and acting against the laws that have irked the Indian government multiple times.
Despite multiple warnings and notices, Twitter failed to comply with the new IT rules as a result, it lost its legal protection as an intermediary in India. Several cases have been filed against the company in different states over the content posted on the platform. However, instead of following the guidelines, Twitter is still trying to buy more time from the court.
It is notable here that other tech companies like Facebook and Google have already complied with the new IT rules.