The Delhi High Court on Wednesday objected to an affidavit filed by Twitter where the social media platform submitted that it had appointed a chief compliance officer and a resident grievance officer in India, Live Law reported.
Twitter had submitted the affidavit in connection with a case where it has been accused of violating the Centre’s new information technology rules. Under the sweeping set of regulations of the new IT rules – which were announced in February and became effective in May – social media platforms with more than 50 lakh users need to follow several guidelines, including the appointment of the officers.
On July 8, the High Court had given two weeks’ time to Twitter to comply with the rules.
On Wednesday, Twitter’s counsel Sajan Poovayya told the court that they have filed two affidavits in the matter. The affidavits informed the court about the appointment of the two officers as “contingent worker[s] via a third party contractor”, The Indian Express reported. The affidavits also said that Twitter has received an oral confirmation of joining from a person it intends to appoint as the nodal contact person.
The single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli took objection to the submissions.
“What is this term contingent worker?” she asked Poovayya. “What does this mean? This gives an impression that his duties are based on some contingencies.”
She said that appointment of the officers through a third-party contractor did not amount to compliance of the IT rules and asked Twitter to file a fresh affidavit within a week. “I don’t know what your company wants to do...If you want to do it, comply wholeheartedly,” Palli remarked.
The court asked Twitter to reveal, in the fresh affidavit, the identity of the third-party contractor and explain the term “contingent worker”. The judge also reprimanded Twitter for seeking eight weeks to appoint a nodal contact person.
“Your company is making so much [money]…And you are saying you will make an endeavour within eight weeks?” Palli asked Poovayya. “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.”
In a previous hearing in the case earlier this month, Palli had made similar observations suggesting that Twitter cannot take “as long as it wants” to comply with the new rules. In another hearing a couple of days later, the court had said it would not protect the social media platform against legal proceedings if it did not comply with the rules.
The case is based on a petition moved by a social media user, who had alleged that he found certain “defamatory and false” posts while scrolling through the platform on May 26. The petitioner, Amit Acharya, added that when he tried to file a complaint, he could not find the resident grievance redressal officer’s details on Twitter’s page.
Twitter vs Centre on new IT rules
The new rules are aimed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision. Apart from appointment of the grievance and nodal officers, they also state that platforms with over 50 lakh users must help identify the originators of messages on the government’s request.
In a hearing during this case, the Centre on July 5 told the Delhi High Court that Twitter had lost its “safe harbour immunity” due to non-compliance of the rules. As a result of this, Twitter will be stripped of the protection social media websites have against legal proceedings for unlawful content posted by users if the court accepts the Centre’s submission.
Meanwhile, the microblogging platform is facing four cases in India amid its row with the Centre. On June 29, the Delhi Police had filed a first information report against Twitter for allegedly allowing access to child pornography on its platform.
Two other cases were filed against Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari for a map showing the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as separate from India. Another FIR was filed against the platform for posts about the assault on a Muslim man in Ghaziabad in June.