The Centre on Thursday told the Karnataka High Court that Twitter’s petition challenging some of its orders to remove content from the social media platform is not maintainable, Live Law reported.

In July, the platform had moved the court challenging the legality of a series of blocking orders, saying they “demonstrate excessive use of powers”. Twitter had told the court that between February 2021 and February 2022, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked it to take down 175 tweets and more than 1,400 accounts.

The blocking orders under contention were sent under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security. But Twitter claimed that these orders do not fall under the ambit of this section of the legislation.

In a 101-page statement, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Thursday argued that its actions were well within the ambit of law. Describing Twitter as “habitual non-compliant” platform, the government contended that the micro-blogging site cannot decide what content will threaten national security or public order.

“It is not for the intermediary platform to define what free speech is and what is not,” the statement said.

The counsel representing Twitter had argued during hearings that the blocking orders are contrary to the right to freedom of expression. The company had added that some of the orders failed to give notice to authors of the content.

However, the government in its statement said that since Twitter was the intermediary, it was the company’s responsibility to inform the users.

The Centre also contended that issuing notice to users for content related to national security and public order is not prudent.

It also stressed that freedom of speech is an invaluable right of citizens, The Times of India reported.

“Still, under the guise of freedom of speech and expression, no one is permitted to transgress the social or legal boundaries and publish objectionable comments or tweets to disrupt the country’s peace and social and religious harmony,” the statement said. “Therefore, any content removal should be permitted by the law in force only [in this case, Section 69A].”

The statement claimed that platforms such as Twitter were not taking effective steps to prevent the spread of fake news or deliberate misinformation.

“In this digital age, platforms are misused by anti-India elements and foreign adversaries for anti-India propaganda in the national and global level and create disunity and disorder in the country,” the central government said.

It added: “Misleading content, fake news, hate speech content on religious or ethnic lines, are widely spread and it has potential to multiply in various forms or new modified contents across various other platforms.”

Therefore, the Centre said it is essential to detect and block such misinformation at the initial stage to “prevent a public order catastrophe like situation in the country”.

On claims that political tweets were asked to be taken down, the government submitted that it had only asked for unverified accounts to be blocked.

There is no fundamental right of anonymity under the Constitution, the statement said.

“The only right guaranteed is the right to remain silence,” it added. “The petitioner cannot defend the Article 19 rights of its unverified, untraceable and anonymous users. The said right is only available to an identified citizen of the country.”

The government told the court that Twitter is a foreign entity that has only been allowed to operate in India for monetary profit.

“The petitioner is neither a citizen of India, nor is a natural person; dehors the above, the petitioner is not even claiming a derivative right of any of its shareholder [an Indian citizen] to invoke the Constitutional remedy of Article 226 of this Hon’ble Court to seek the nature of reliefs as claimed in the present petition,” the Centre said, according to Live Law.

It added: “As such for this reason alone, the present writ petition is liable to be dismissed.”

The Karnataka High Court will now hear the matter on September 8.