Karnataka HC grants interim relief to Twitter India MD

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday granted interim relief to Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari by directing the Uttar Pradesh Police not to 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.

A bench of Justice G Narendar stated that the investigating authority was free to question Maheshwari through video conferencing in the case, which comes in the wake of an ongoing face-off between the American company and the Indian government over the country’s new IT rules.

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 first information report (FIR) filed against the company for failing to ban the 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, of which he is an employee, 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. “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.

At odds with revised IT rules

San Francisco -headquartered Twitter has been at loggerheads with the Indian government ever since it failed to appoint three key executives – who under the revised Information Technology Rules are mandated to be permanent employees of the company and residents of India – by May 26.

ET had reported that the company appears to have lost its intermediary status, making it liable for criminal prosecution for content uploaded by third parties on its platform.

The microblogging platform is also under fire after it tagged certain tweets by BJP leaders as “manipulated media” and has refused to remove the tag despite receiving a strongly-worded letter from the government asking it to do so.

Maheshwari was questioned by the Delhi Police in Bengaluru last month for its investigation into the company’s tagging of tweets as “manipulated media”. While the police is conducting a preliminary investigation into the issue, it hasn’t filed an FIR in the case.

India’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has questioned Twitter’s policy of selectively tagging Tweets as containing ‘manipulated media’. “If Twitter has a norm of declaring a particular Tweet as manipulated or unmanipulated, why was it not applied in the Ghaziabad case?” Prasad told television news agency ANI last week.

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