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Twitter restricts Prashant Bhushan tweets in India without court order

Supreme Court
Credit: Aditi Agrawal

Twitter on Saturday restricted two of advocate Prashant Bhushan’s tweets in India following a demand from the Supreme Court. Bar and Bench first reported the development. “When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs,” Bhushan said in one of the two tweets.

In the other, Bhushan posted a picture of the Chief Justice of India trying out a high-end motorcycle. Both tweets remain visible for users outside in India, and users in India who have switched their country to something else on their Twitter settings. We have reached out to Twitter for comment.

No court order

A Supreme Court bench on July 22 took suo moto cognisance of Bhushan’s tweets, essentially issuing notice to him (and Twitter) for “undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large.” While the Supreme Court did not explicitly order Twitter’s counsel Sajan Poovayya to withhold the tweet in India, the Arun Mishra-led bench left little room for interpretation on what the platform was expected to do. “Why can’t you do it on your own? Even after we have initiated the contempt proceedings, do you want to wait for a formal order? We think we won’t pass any order and will leave it your wisdom,” News18 quoted the bench as saying.

When withholding tweets, the company uses the word “demand” instead of “order”, giving it some discretion over whether or not to give in to pressure in the lack of unambiguous directives. Twitter counsel Poovayya told Bar & Bench that the platform has the choice to either “delete” the tweets or restore them depending on the court’s final order.

While the court took this case up on its own, a Madhya Pradesh-based lawyer, Mahek Maheshwari, reportedly filed a petition earlier this month against Bhushan and Twitter for the tweets.

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