Amid its ongoing tussle with X (formerly Twitter) over takedown orders, the Indian government reportedly told a Karnataka High Court (HC) bench that the social media platform was a ‘habitual non-compliant platform’.
As per filings seen by Reuters, the Centre told the HC that the platform did not adhere to its content takedown orders for years, thereby undermining the government’s role.
This was part of submissions by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) before the court on August 24 in response to a challenge filed by X against a previous ruling and fine imposed on it by the HC. Meanwhile, the HC was slated to hear the social media platform’s petition in the coming days.
Arguing for X’s plea to be quashed, the Centre, in its 28-page filing, reportedly stated that the social media platform undermined ‘the role of the government in a democratic setup’. Citing its rationale for this, MeitY said that the company previously unblocked certain handles, which were ordered to be blocked, without the government’s knowledge.
The ministry also argued that the social media giant was ‘advocating a dangerous trend’ by being the arbitrator of the government orders. It contended that if X was allowed such concessions, it could make all platforms the ‘final arbitrator of lawful orders’.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, X informed the Karnataka HC that it deposited INR 25 Lakh with the Registry in compliance with the previous order issued by a single bench of the court. The HC, in early August, ordered the platform to deposit half of the INR 50 Lakh penalty imposed on the company in June this year by August 14.
The matter harks back to the period before Elon Musk took over the reins of the social media platform. In July last year, Twitter filed a petition in the Karnataka HC seeking to dismiss content takedown orders issued by MeitY under Section 69A of the IT Act.
Twitter’s plea alleged that the Centre asked it to take down content that pertained to alleged misinformation during farmer’s protest and the pandemic. In retort, the union government challenged the locus standi of Twitter’s plea citing foreign credentials of the latter. The Centre argued that only Indian citizens possessed the right to challenge fundamental rights to freedom.
Subsequently, in June this year, a single-bench of the HC ruled in favour of the government and imposed a penalty of INR 50 Lakh on the social media platform. Following this, the company approached a divisional bench against the order.
In August after much back and forth, the bench comprising Chief Justice Prasanna Varale and Justice MGS Kamal heard preliminary submissions in the case and directed X to pay half of the amount for the time being. The court added that the reduced penalty ought not be treated as the court’s acceptance that ‘some equity lies in favour of X Corp.’
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