The Maharashtra government has withdrawn its orders asking TikTok to suspend the accounts of three youngsters eight months after the Chinese video-sharing social networking service had blocked them for an alleged hate-mongering video.
The state had in July last year asked TikTok to suspend the accounts of Hasnain Khan, Shadan Farooqui and Faisal Shaikh after they had posted videos condemning the lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand in June.
The Bombay High Court division bench of Acting Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice NR Boarkar, in an order on February 24, had observed that the Maharashtra government did not follow the rules prescribed under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Following this, the state told the court that it will withdraw its orders.
“In this situation, we find that the petitioners can continue to operate their Tik Tok account,” the Bombay High Court said after the additional public prosecutor, representing the state government, told the court that its order was being withdrawn. “They have no grievance insofar as direction to Tik Tok to preserve the trail of their operations is concerned.”
The court said that the counsel for the petitioners and the additional public prosecutor had agreed to cooperate with the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department in its investigation into the complaint.
Hasnain Khan, Shadan Farooqui and Faisal Shaikh were part of a five-member college group from Mumbai known as Team 07 on TikTok, according to the Hindustan Times. The other two members of the group were Adnan Shaikh and Faiz Baloch. Together, the five users had a fan following of over four crore people.
While the group usually stayed away from making political statements, on July 6 last year, Khan posted a video on his account in which he spoke about the lynching of Tabrez Ansari. “You killed innocent Tabrez Ansari, but tomorrow if his children take revenge, do not say that all Muslims are terrorists,” Khan said in the video. Farooqui and Shaikh also posted similar videos on their accounts.
A mob caught Ansari in Dhaktidih village in Seraikela-Kharsawan district of Jharkhand while he was allegedly attempting to steal a motorcycle on June 18. He was reportedly tied to a pole and beaten for 12 hours. The police took Ansari into custody and produced him in a court, which sent him to judicial remand. According to the police, Ansari fell ill on June 22 and was taken to a hospital, where he died. The FIR said that the mob had also forced Ansari to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”.
The TikTok videos, which received wide publicity, came to the notice of Shiv Sena leader Ramesh Solanki. Solanki alerted the cyber cell of the Mumbai Police and filed a first information report at a police station. He claimed that there was a conspiracy behind the videos.
By the next day, the videos vanished from TikTok along with the accounts of the three members of Team 07. It came to light that the social networking service had suspended the accounts. On July 8, Shaikh posted an apology on his Instagram page: “We would like to apologise sincerely if anyone has felt hurt by our video. Our intention was not to hurt or insult anyone. The video has been removed. Jai Hind.”
The three men were granted anticipatory bail by the High Court in August.