The Karnataka High Court on Friday quashed a notice issued by the Ghaziabad Police to the managing director of Twitter India in a case related to tweets about the assault of an elderly Muslim man, Live Law reported.
The High Court described the notice, issued under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as a tool of harassment. A notice under this section mandates a person to appear before a police officer.
Manish Maheshwari, Twitter India’s managing director, had filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging the legal notice issued by the Ghaziabad Police. On June 24, the High Court had passed an interim order restraining the police from taking any coercive action against Maheshwari.
The court on Friday said that the Uttar Pradesh Police issued the notice without ascertaining whether Maheshwari had any control over the content posted on Twitter. The content is controlled by Twitter Inc, which is based in the United States, and not Twitter India, the court noted, according to Bar and Bench.
The judge also noted that Maheshwari was not named as an accused in the first information report registered in the case. “The respondent [police] has not placed even an iota of material which would prima facie show involvement of the petitioner,” Justice G Narender said in his order.
The court further observed that the police invoked the provision as an “arm-twisting method” after Maheshwari did not respond to an earlier notice, Bar and Bench reported.
On the police’s actions, the court observed: “There was not only failure of respondent [the UP Police] to secure information that is available in the public domain, but the ominous silence maintained on the merits of the matter and an attempt to coax the court to scrap the petition on jurisdiction.”
However, the court allowed the police to record Maheshwari’s statement online.
The assault incident
The case relates to a video depicting 72-year-old Abdul Samad Saifi saying that he had been abducted in an autorickshaw by several men and locked up in a secluded house. Saifi alleged that he was assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. He also said the assailants cut his beard and made him watch videos of other Muslims being attacked.
However, the Ghaziabad Police, which registered a case based on Saifi’s complaint, on June 15 claimed that there was no communal angle to the assault. The police added that both Hindus and Muslims were among the accused who beat up the elderly man. Saifi, they said, had been beaten up because an amulet he gave one of the assailants had an adverse effect on them.
The police had arrested nine people in connection with the assault. However, the accused have been granted interim bail by a court in Ghaziabad.
The police claimed that the tweets and videos on the assault of the man were “an attempt to destroy communal harmony”. In this connection, they had asked Maheshwari to appear before them on June 24 or face action. The notice also summoned Twitter India’s Resident Grievance Officer Dharmendra Chatur to the police station. It said Maheshwari and Chatur were responsible for the activities on the social media platform.
The Twitter India MD, while challenging the notice, said he was just an employee of the organisation and had nothing to do with the assault case.
On June 16, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the then Union Information Technology Minister, said that Twitter has been booked in the case as it failed to comply with the Centre’s new social media rules.
Apart from Twitter India, the Uttar Pradesh police filed a case against The Wire, journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammad Zubair and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Sama Mohammad.