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Karnataka High Court to dictate order in Twitter India employee Manish Maheshwari’s petition against UP Police on July 13

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The court was hearing the matter of Maheshwari’s petition that he filed after UP Police named him in an FIR over the Ghaziabad assault video case. 

On July 13, the Karnataka High Court will begin dictating its order in the hearing of a petition filed by Twitter India employee Manish Maheshwari seeking relief from notices served by Uttar Pradesh police. Over the last few days, a single-judge bench of Justice G Narender has been hearing the petition in relation to content uploaded on Twitter and the UP Police seeking to question Maheshwari in that regard.

Background: The content in question is a viral video of an elderly Muslim man who was attacked in Ghaziabad’s Loni district on June 5. While many took to social media to say that the attack was communal in nature, the Ghaziabad Police claimed that it was not, and it urged Twitter to take down such content. Following that, the Loni Border Police registered an FIR against a few people who uploaded the video and also, against Twitter Inc and Twitter India for allegedly failing to take down the content despite a ‘clarification’ issued by Ghaziabad Police. It is in this regard that the police sent two notices to Twitter India’s Manish Maheshwari, under Section 150 of the CRPC and Section 41 A respectively, urging him to appear in person at the police station for investigation purposes.

UP Police’s notice is illegal: Maheshwari’s counsel

During Friday’s hearing senior advocate CV Nagesh, Maheshwari’s counsel, reiterated his stance of the Sec 41A notice, one of the two notices that were served by the UP Police, was illegal and cited the Roshni Biswas vs State of West Bengal to support his claim. He added that the first notice, served under Sec 160 of the CrPC was also illegal.

The very contention of the notice under sec 41A is nothing short of threatening me, intimidating me and harassing me. This honourable court and your lordship has to safeguard the fundamental right of the petitioner — CV Nagesh, Manish Maheshwari’s counsel

Sec1 13(5) of the Information Technology Act: In regards to the territorial jurisdiction of the petition under the Karnataka High Court, Sec 13(5) of the IT Act was highlighted by both Nagesh and UP Police’s counsel Prasanna Kumar.

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What does the section say?

(a) if the originator or the addressee has more than one place of business, the principal place of business, shall be the place of business;
(b) if the originator or the addressee does not have a place of business, his usual place of residence shall be deemed to be the place of business;
(c) “usual place of residence”, in relation to a body corporate, means the place where it is registered.

Nagesh said that the concerned section can only be invoked if the notice was issued to Twitter. Instead, he said, it was addressed to the petitioner. Referring to the 13 (5)(b) of the Act, Nagesh said that Bengaluru was not only the place where Maheshwari stayed but also where he worked.

Maheshwari claimed to be the MD: UP Police’s counsel

Uttar Pradesh Police’s counsel Prasanna Kumar said that the notice was served to Maheshwari because he had in various platforms such as LinkedIn, claimed to be the managing director of Twitter India. “Petitioner has been claiming that he is the MD of Twitter India. He cannot play hide and seek. They have a responsibility to people,” Kumar said.

Earlier on July 6, Justice Narender had questioned Uttar Pradesh Police for not affirming the ‘basic facts’ in the Ghaziabad assault video case wherein both Twitter Inc and Twitter India have been named as accused.

The single-judge bench of Justice G Narender took cognisance that Twitter Inc and Twitter India were different entities, and questioned whether the latter was ‘capable of taking down the content’. The bench also noted that Maheshwari had stated that Twitter India has no control over the content on the platform.

FIR is regarding non-compliance with IT Rules: UP Police’s counsel

On June 6, UP Police’s counsel brought up the IT Rules while seeking to explain why the police served notices to Maheshwari. Although his submission was dismissed by the Karnataka High Court, that was probably the first time a representative of a public authority had correlated the action sought against Twitter India and Twitter Inc, with the social media company’s non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021, the last date to comply with the IT Rules was May 26.

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“The whole FIR is regarding non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021 by Twitter in India. All we want is cooperation from them. The company has a responsibility towards the country,” Prasanna Kumar said. He also assured that “there is no threat to the liberty of petitioner” in response to previous submissions made by Nagesh regarding the applicability of the notice under Section 41 A.

The Union government has repeatedly said that a significant social media intermediary (SSMI) which does not comply with the rules will lose exemption from liability under the IT Act 2000. Since the deadline for compliance has passed, several cases have been booked against Twitter and Twitter India’s Manish Maheshwari for various alleged offences related to content posted on the platform.

Police cases against Maheshwari

Ever since the ‘manipulated media’ tag controversy, Twitter India’s Manish Maheshwari has been in the crosshairs of many Twitter-related controversies in the country —

  • Madhya Pradesh police booked a case against Twitter India’s Manish Maheshwari after the social media platform posted an inaccurate depiction of India’s map on their website, confirmed an MP Police official to MediaNama.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Police named Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari in a first information report (FIR) over a map on Twitter’s website showing Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh as a separate country.
  • Ghaziabad Police sent two legal notices to Maheshwari in connection with a viral video of an elderly man in the Loni area of UP being assaulted.
  • Delhi Police had served a notice to Maheshwari in connection with the ‘manipulated media’ tag on a few posts made by BJP politicians.

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