Updated: July 5, 2021 9:09:53 pm
The IT Rules 2021 are the “law of the land” and Twitter is “mandatorily” required to comply with them, the Centre told the Delhi High Court Monday. The central government also told the court that Twitter has failed to fully comply with the rules, which results in the micro-blogging site losing the immunity granted to intermediaries under the law.
The reply was filed in response to a petition alleging that the micro-blogging site has not appointed a resident grievance officer, as per the IT Rules 2021. The Centre told the court that Twitter had initially appointed interim Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person but it later informed the State that both the officers have resigned from their positions.
The grievances from India in the interim are apparently being handled by Twitter’s personnel from the US, which amounts to non-compliance with the IT rules, the Centre said in its reply.
The Centre said that as of July 1, Twitter had failed to comply with the rules for four reasons — Chief Compliance Officer has not been appointed, the position of the Resident Grievance Officer is vacant, the position of the Nodal Contact Person is vacant, and the physical contact address, which was shown to be there on May 29, is once again “not available” on Twitter’s website.
“Any non-compliance amounts to breach of the provisions of the IT Rules 2021 thereby leading to (Twitter Inc) losing its immunity conferred under Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2001,” the reply reads further.
Twitter, in a reply last week, told the court that it was in the final stages of appointing a Resident Grievance Officer after the person engaged as interim arrangement withdrew his candidature on June 21. The micro-blogging site has, however, also argued that a writ petition was not maintainable against it under Article 226 since it is a corporation registered in the US and neither the originator nor the publisher of the electronics records transmitted through its communication system or platform.
The court on May 31 had granted Twitter three weeks to state on record that it has appointed a resident grievance officer and observed that it has to comply with if they have not stayed.
“The Petitioner has instituted this Writ Petition in respect of his complaint dated 26.05. 2021. The relationship between the Petitioner and the Answering Respondent (Twitter) is contractual, as more particularly set out hereinabove. A Writ Petition is therefore not maintainable,’ Twitter contended in the reply.
Twitter had appointed an interim Resident Grievance Officer in May and uploaded his detail on the website but even before the steps could be taken to completely formalize the petition, he withdrew his candidature, according to the reply.
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 and wanted to raise a grievance against them before the resident grievance officer under the IT Rules 2021. The petition alleges that the “objectionable tweets” were made by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and journalist Swati Chaturvedi.
“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.
The petition also contends that the petitioner has a legal and statutory right under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 to raise complaints against any defamatory, untrue and false tweet or post on Twitter before its resident grievance officer as it is a significant social media intermediary. Twitter has argued the ground is “incorrect, and denied”.
In response, the micro-blogging site also told the court that it was incumbent on the petitioner to wait for a reasonable time before preferring the plea. It further told the court that the complaint has been considered and disposed of since filing of the petition and thus, nothing survives in it.
“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 the reply.
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