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Friday, September 17, 2021

Delhi HC raps Twitter, questions appointments made by it under IT Rules

The court also asked Twitter to explain why the nodal contact officer has not been appointed till date and to provide the likely time within which the appointment is proposed to be made

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: July 29, 2021 7:31:57 am
Twitter India, Toolkit case Twitter, Twitter BJP Sambit Patra, Twitter India Delhi Police raid, Delhi Police Twitter raid, BJP Twitter IndiaTwitter, while seeking time, submitted that an appropriately-worded affidavit will be filed by it.

The Delhi High Court Wednesday rejected the affidavits filed by Twitter in response to the case alleging non-compliance of IT Rules by the micro-blogging site and granted it one week time to file better affidavits setting out the details of the person who is stated to have been appointed as a Chief Compliance Officer and the Resident Grievance Officer.

The court also asked Twitter to explain why the nodal contact officer has not been appointed till date and to provide the likely time within which the appointment is proposed to be made. “Though affidavits in the purported compliance of the order dated July 8, 2021, have been filed, the same clearly show the total non-compliance with the rules,” said Justice Rekha Palli, while listing the case for the next hearing on August 6.

The court on July 8 had granted time to Twitter to file its affidavits to show compliance of rules. On Wednesday, the micro-blogging site told the court that it has appointed a resident of India as its Chief Compliance Officer and Resident Grievance Officer as a “contingent worker via a third party contractor”.

Twitter also said that it has been made an offer of employment for the position of a Nodal Contact Person to a qualified candidate on Tuesday and he has verbally accepted the offer. It also submitted that efforts were on to fill the positions on a regular basis, and gave an undertaking to make an offer of employment to a qualified candidate within eight weeks.

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.

Justice Palli on Wednesday objected to the use of the term “contingent worker” and asked Twitter to explain. I am not happy with the affidavits, the bench said.

Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, submitted that the company does not have a permanent place of business or office in India and therefore contractual appointments have been made.

“I have a problem with the word contingent worker because that gives an impression it is dependent on some contingency,” said the court, which in earlier hearings also has objected to the use of the term “interim” for the appointments made by Twitter.

The bench also said that when something is filed before the court, it should be very clear. “I don’t know what your company (Twitter) is wanting to do. Do you want to comply? Do it wholeheartedly,” the bench observed.

The court also asked Twitter why it should not be held in default of 4 (1) (a) of the IT Rules, 2021 which states that the Chief Compliance Officer needs to be a key managerial personnel or a senior employee. There has to be some seriousness about this post, it added.

“You have appointed Mr Vinay Prakash who is 31 years old. He (in his affidavit) in fact is very categoric that ‘I am not an employee and have been engaged as a contingent worker’. So, this in itself is in the teeth of the rule,” it added

When Poovayya submitted that Twitter was a smaller organisation “as compared to the larger Facebooks and Googles of the world” and has faced problems because of the lack of physical presence and liaison officers, the court said, “but you are getting business from India.”

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the central government, said there was an “absolute abject non-compliance” of the IT Rules on part of Twitter. “It has been months since they were to comply. The Union and everybody is before a constitutional court but they cannot have it so easy. Either they comply wholeheartedly or they say ‘we are not complying’,” Sharma said, adding that the Centre had not acted since it was before the court.

When Justice Palli observed that Twitter has not revealed the identity of the third party through which the current appointments have been made, Sharma submitted, “it cannot be an UrbanClap AC repairing or AC maintaining service. This is a rule compliance of the government of India”.

During the hearing, the court also objected to Twitter’s submission that it will make “an endeavour in good faith” to make an offer of employment to fill this position within eight weeks. “Are you serious about it? Your company is making so much…and you are saying you will make an endeavour within eight weeks?” it asked.

“This is not acceptable. I will have the matter after one week or ten days. I am giving you a long rope but please don’t expect the court to go on and on,” continued the court.

Twitter, while seeking time, submitted that an appropriately-worded affidavit will be filed by it. The court asked it to disclose the name of a third party also. “Let’s have things clear and please explain the term ‘contingent worker’,” it added.

The court Wednesday passed the order and made the observations while hearing the petition filed by a lawyer, Amit Acharya, through advocates Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar.

The petition states 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,” Acharya has alleged in the plea.

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