There can be no omnibus blocking order, Twitter to Karnataka HC

Arvind Datar further argued that they have examined the statutory provisions in USA, UK, Australia and European Union.

Published: 18th October 2022 06:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2022 06:22 AM   |  A+A-

Karnataka High Court.

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Contending that statutes over regulation of social media in the United States are more liberal, and there is complete freedom of speech compared to the United Kingdom, Australia and European Union, microblogging platform Twitter argued before the Karnataka High Court that there can’t be an omnibus general blocking order unless the nature of the contents is in violation of Section 69-A of the Information Technology Act, which empowers the government to restrict access to any content in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or for public order.

Producing a compilation of statutes in six countries about regulating social media in response to a query made by the court on the last date of hearing, senior advocate Arvind Datar made a submission to that effect before Justice Krishna S Dixit. The court was hearing the petition filed by Twitter questioning the legality of a series of ‘blocking orders’ issued by the Government of India under the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Blocking of Access to Information by Public) Rules, 2009, either to block Twitter accounts or identified contents of the specific accounts, on Monday.    

Arvind Datar further argued that they have examined the statutory provisions in USA, UK, Australia and European Union. In the US, there is no question of directing something to be taken down or block the intermediatory platform, and there is complete freedom of speech, but Indian law and Australian law are completely ad idem.

In all the countries, there is usual format empowering the designated authorities to block if the content on Twitter or WhatsApp is in violation of morality and has provision to appeal against blocking orders, and even the intermediatory can appeal. In India, when contents of tweets do not fall under Section 69A of I-T Act, why is the government ordering their removal, he questioned, while maintaining that Twitter’s petition before the court will survive.

Senior advocate Ashok Harnahalli argued that express reasons be assigned under Section 69A means that it has to be communicated to the aggrieved, and the confidentiality clause in Rule 16 of the Blocking Rules are applicable to all, except persons or intermediaries against whom the blocking orders are issued. Arguing on behalf of senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, an impleading applicant, senior advocate argued that both Twitter and the Centre have relied on the pleadings of his case filed by Hegde against Twitter in Delhi High Court, and hence wants to be a party.

However, the court rejected the impleading application by saying he is not necessary or a proper party as litigation is between the Centre and Twitter. Next hearing is scheduled on October 27, 2022.

India Matters


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