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Delhi HC Says Union govt free to take action against twitter in case of IT rule
The Delhi high court on July 8 said the Union government was free to initiate action against Twitter in accordance with the IT Rules in case of breaches.
On the same day, Twitter Inc had informed the high court that it has appointed an interim chief compliance officer, who is a resident of India, and said it will make an endeavour to fill the regular position within eight weeks as per the new IT Rules.
The tech giant – in the crosshairs with the Union government over the IT Rules – said it has appointed an interim chief compliance officer (CCO) with effect from July 6 and communication has also been addressed to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
The bench of Justice Rekha Palli, however rapped Twitter for referring to the officers as “interim” ones, according to The Indian Express.
“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,” the news outlet reported the court having said.
The case is listed for hearing on July 28.
Twitter in an affidavit filed in compliance with the court’s July 6 order said it has posted publicly a job announcement for a CCO as a direct employee and is accepting applications at this time. “Twitter will endeavour in good faith to make an offer of employment to a qualified candidate to fill this position within 8 weeks,” it said.
It also said Twitter is in the process of making an appointment to an Indian resident as its interim resident grievance officer (RGO) and expects to do so on or before July 11 and the details will be updated on its help page as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the duties of the RGO are being performed by the grievance officer, and will continue to do so until the appointment, it said.
It said it is also in the process of appointing a nodal contact officer on an interim basis within two weeks and on a regular basis in eight weeks.
While Twitter is striving to comply with the 2021 Rules, Twitter reserves its right to challenge the legality, validity, and vires of the Rules, and Twitter’s submissions regarding compliance are filed without prejudice to its right to challenge the Rules, the affidavit said.
It added that the platform will file its first compliance report covering the period May 26 to June 25, 2021, not later than on July 11, in consistence with the 2021 Rules.
Twitter also gave an interim physical contact address in Bangalore and stated that it is in the process of setting up a liaison office here which will be its permanent physical contact address.
The court had on July 6 asked Twitter to inform it by July 8 as to when it will appoint a resident grievance officer (RGO) in compliance with the new IT Rules after the microblogging platform submitted that it was in the process of doing so.
The court had taken exception to the fact the court was not informed that the earlier appointment of the RGO was only on interim basis and he has already resigned.
Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, had said though Twitter was in process of making the appointment, it was true that as on date there is no chief compliance officer, RGO and nodal contact person.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, had said the rules were notified on February 25 and three-month window was given to the intermediaries to comply with the rules, which has expired on May 25.
“We are on July 6. It is a 42-day complete non-compliance. They are most welcome to do business in India. But this attitude is cock a snook at the digital sovereignty of this country,” he had argued.
The judge had said, “I have already told them they have to comply with the rules. I am not giving them any protection. If they are in defiance, you are free to take action. I have already made it clear if they want to work, they have to follow rules.”
The court had noted that on May 31, Twitter’s counsel on instructions had submitted that in compliance of the Information technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, it has already appointed a RGO on May 28.
The Centre had said in its affidavit that Twitter Inc has failed to comply with India’s new IT Rules, which could lead to its losing immunity conferred under the IT Act.
It had said as per the details obtained from Twitter’s website or mobile application, as an interim, the grievances from India are being handled by the platform’s official located in the US which amounts to non-compliance of the IT Rules, 2021.
The affidavit had said that Twitter has failed to comply with the IT Rules, 2021 as on July 1 for the following reasons — chief compliance officer has not been appointed; the positions of RGO and nodal contact person are vacant, and the physical contact address, which was shown to be there on May 29, is not available again on Twitter website.
Petitioner-lawyer Amit Acharya said in his plea that he came to know about the alleged non-compliance when he tried to lodge a complaint against a couple of tweets. PTI
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