SAYING TWITTER cannot be permitted to take as much time as it wants to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said it expects the micro-blogging site to inform it on Thursday about its stand “regarding complying with all other provisions” of IT Rules, 2021.
Justice Rekha Palli said Twitter should have made the appointment by now, and pulled it up for making a “misleading” statement before the court on May 31 that it had appointed a Resident Grievance Officer on May 28. The bench said it was never informed that the appointment was an interim arrangement.
“How long does it take? If Twitter thinks that they can take as long as they want to take in our country, I will not permit that. I will not permit that you will go on taking as much time as you want,” said Justice Palli, while hearing a petition alleging that the micro-blogging site has not appointed a resident grievance officer in accordance with the IT Rules, 2021.
The rules, announced in February, had asked all social media platforms to set up a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, which included appointing a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person.
Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, conceded before the court that the micro-blogging platform was, at present, not in compliance with the IT Rules. Poovayya told the court that a practising lawyer was appointed as an interim grievance officer and he continued for three weeks.
“He then indicated… that because the Union said that they will not accept a non-employee as a grievance officer… he realised that there is a lot of precipitation which he need not put his neck into. He has now withdrawn his consent and Twitter is in the process of appointing a new grievance officer,” submitted Poovayya.
However, the court said the rules are binding on Twitter and that it has been more than two weeks since the person left the position. “To that extent, Twitter is in defiance of the rules,” added the court.
In response to the court’s query regarding the time Twitter would take to make the appointment, the counsel submitted that since it was in the middle of the night in San Francisco, where the company is headquartered, they would need a day’s time to get specific instructions.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, submitted that the IT Rules were notified on February 25 and there was a three-month window for compliance. “That expired on May 26. We are on the 6th of July… it is either a 41-day or 42-day complete non-compliance,” Sharma said.
“The attitude and this prevarication cocks a snook at the digital sovereignty of this country,” argued Sharma.
The court then observed that it was not providing any protection to Twitter and told the Centre, “If they are in violation, you know what to do.”
On Monday, the Centre, in a written reply, told the court that the IT Rules, 2021, are the “law of the land” and Twitter is “mandatorily” required to comply with them. It also told the court that Twitter has failed to fully comply with the rules and such failure results in the micro-blogging site losing the immunity granted to intermediaries under the law.
The petition, filed by a lawyer, Amit Acharya, through advocates Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar, stated that on May 26, Acharya came across “defamatory, false and untrue” tweets on Twitter made by two verified users — Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and journalist Swati Chaturvedi — and wanted to raise a grievance against them before the resident grievance officer under the IT Rules, 2021.
“However, the petitioner was unable to find the contact details of the Resident Grievance on the website of Twitter … for raising his grievance,” the petition alleged.
In response, Twitter told the court that it was incumbent on the petitioner to wait for a reasonable time before preferring the plea.
“Petitioner claims to be aggrieved by Tweets…However, the authors of those Tweets have not impleaded as Respondents. Petitioner cannot seek any relief which directly or indirectly touches upon those Tweets without impleading the authors of the Tweets and for this reason alone, the Writ Petition deserves to be dismissed,” reads Twitter’s reply.