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Delhi High Court gives Twitter two days to provide timeframe on IT Rules compliance

During the hearing, the advocate appearing for the microblogging platform explained why its interim grievance officer had resigned. 

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday gave Twitter two days’ time to confirm when it will comply with the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. “Keeping in view the fact that the matter is being adjourned, it is expected that before the next date, the lead senior counsel for respondent no. 2 will be ready with instructions as to the stand of the respondents, as to complying with all other aspects of the IT Rules,” a single judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli said.

The court was hearing a petition urging it to direct Twitter to comply with the IT Rules, which requires, among others, appointing a resident grievance officer. In its affidavit in the case, the government said that it didn’t believe Twitter enjoyed intermediary liability protections under the Rules any longer.

  • Twitter can’t take as long as it wants: During oral arguments, Justice Palli observed, “If Twitter thinks they can take as long as they want to take in our country, I will not permit that.” She added that the company should have appointed someone in the two-week period between the resignation of Dharmendra Chatur, a lawyer who briefly served as the interim resident grievance officer for Twitter, and the hearing. The justice also rapped the company’s advocate, Sajan Poovayya, for not making it clear that Chatur’s appointment was interim. Poovayya responded that he was only acting on instructions from his client.
  • Why interim grievance officer quit: Dharmendra Chatur, a Partner Designate at Poovayya & Co., quit merely weeks after being appointed as an interim grievance redressal officer. Poovayya shed light on why that happened. “What happened was this: an interim grievance officer who is a practicing lawyer [Chatur] was appointed. And that person continued in his position for about three weeks, and then indicated that since the Union [Government] said that they will not accept a non-employee as a grievance officer— and also to be fair to the lawyer, he realized that there is a lot of precipitation that he need not put his neck into. He has now withdrawn his consent, and Twitter is in the process of appointing a new [grievance officer],” he explained.

Full order

What follows is the order dictated by Justice Palli. Note that since the order hasn’t been uploaded on the Delhi High Court’s website, there may be some discrepancies in the version issued by the court.

On 31st May 2021, when the present petition was taken up for preliminary hearing, learned senior counsel for the respondent no. 2 [Twitter] had on instruction submitted that the said respondent had in compliance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Liability Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, already appointed a resident grievance officer on 28th May 2021.

However, in view of this statement, the respondent no. 2 was granted time to file a short reply to the counter-affidavit. The said reply has been filed, and a perusal thereof shows that the respondent no. 2 had as on 31st May 2021 appointed only an interim resident grievance officer — which fact was not brought to the notice of this Court — who is also now claimed to have resigned on 21st June 2021. Mr. Poovayya, lead senior counsel for respondent no. 2 submits that the respondent no. 2 is in the process of appointing a new resident grievance officer. However, upon being queried on the time frame within which the process claimed to have been undertaken by respondent no. 2 is likely to be completed, he prayed for time to obtain clear instructions.

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Though the matter was passed over, he submits that due to the difference in the time zone between Delhi and San Francisco, US, where respondent no. 2 is situated, he could not obtain instructions, and prays for a short accommodation. On the other hand, the ASG, appearing for respondent no. 1 submits that as on date respondent no. 2 is in clear breach of the Rules. He however does not oppose the request for a short accommodation. In these circumstances, list day after tomorrow [July 8].

Keeping in view the fact that the matter is being adjourned, it is expected that before the next date, the lead senior counsel for respondent no. 2 will be ready with instructions as to the stand of the respondents, as to complying with all other aspects of the IT Rules.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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