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Delhi HC: No interim protection for Twitter, government can take action


The IT Rules 2021 require significant social media intermediaries like Twitter to appoint officers for specified roles. 

The Delhi High Court on Thursday told Twitter that the government would be free to take action against the company as long as it remained non-compliant with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. “It would be open for respondent number 1 [the Union of India] to take action against [Twitter] in case of any default of the Rules”, a single judge bench of Rekha Palli ordered. The next hearing was posted for July 28.

Twitter’s counsel Sajan Poovayya argued in court that the company was appointing officers under the IT Rules as “interim” because of tax and financial issues, as the company does not yet have a liaison office in India. Twitter argued that its interim appointees are undertaking all the tasks required under the IT Act and that it will appoint officers required under the IT Rules within eight months. In a note submitted to the court, the company said that it would endeavour in good faith to make these appointments. Twitter asked for time to submit the note as an affidavit and asked for two weeks to file the affidavit as the notarised papers would have to be sent from the US.

Govt counsel objects to “interim” appointments: Assistant Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and a lawyer representing the main petitioner in the case objected to Twitter’s appointment of “interim” officers. The lawyers argued that the Rules did not give Twitter the discretion to make interim appointments and that it needed to be fully compliant. Poovayya responded that in case of non-compliance, the government could send a notice to Twitter and that the company would respond. Sharma said that compliance with the IT Rules couldn’t be “left in a halfway house” through a third party, and said that such approaches to compliance wouldn’t be tolerated in other industries like the pharmaceutical sector.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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