The Delhi High Court on Wednesday gave Twitter an earful over its appointment of a chief compliance officer and grievance officer under the IT Rules who the company described as a “contingent” worker.
At issue is Twitter’s seeming reluctance to follow the letter and spirit of the law, which, quite simply, asks the firm to appoint a permanent employee to these posts. The approach clearly continues, as the reaction of the court demonstrates.
In an affidavit, Twitter informed the court that it has appointed the same person for these two key positions as a “contingent worker through a third-party contractor”. However, Twitter’s explanation did not go down well with a single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli.
“Your affidavit is unacceptable,” Justice Palli told Twitter’s counsel senior advocate Sajan Poovayya. “It is not compliance when you have some contingent worker through a third party contractor. We don’t know who the contractor is. Please don’t expect the court to go on and on about this,” she added.
“I don’t know what Twitter is wanting to do,” Justice Palli held. “If you want to comply [with the IT Rules] then do it wholeheartedly.”
These remarks came during the hearing of a case filed by lawyer Amit Acharya, in which he claimed non-compliance with the new social media rules by Twitter.
So far, Twitter had been using the term ‘interim’ for its chief compliance and grievance officer. However, in its latest submission, it dropped that word and used the word “contingent” to describe their employment status with the US-based company.
“I don’t know what a contingent worker means. What is this? I have a problem with the word, it gives an impression that it depends on some contingency. What do you want to achieve?” Justice Palli told Twitter over the use of the word.
Twitter’s counsel senior advocate Poovayya conceded that the “language [of the affidavit] was bad”.
Twitter also informed the court that it has appointed Vinay Prakash as both the chief compliance and grievance officer. The company said it has intimated the government about the same but was yet to hear from them.
In an affidavit submitted to the court by Twitter on behalf of Prakash, he had clearly stated that he is not an employee of the company but will fulfil the duty of a compliance and grievance officer as required under the rules.
But Justice Palli wasn’t amused by Prakash’s submission.
“It’s a chief compliance officer, there has to be some seriousness about the post. This in itself is in the teeth of the rule. This is a 31 year old person. What is this?” she said.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, who was appearing for the union government, read out the IT Rules and said that the chief compliance officer has to be a senior employee of a significant social media intermediary and not a “contingent” worker.
“These [interim and contingent] are only niceties of phrases but mean absolute non-compliance by Twitter. They can’t have it so easy. This repeated non-compliance by nuanced terminologies,” ASG Sharma said.
Twitter also informed the court that it was yet to appoint a nodal officer, another key requirement of the IT Rules. The company said that it has reached a verbal agreement with a person to fill the role but there has not been any paperwork yet.
Incidentally, other major social media firms caught up under the same rules have confirmed compliance to the government’s satisfaction, it would appear. However, as Entrackr had exclusively reported, WhatsApp’s grievance officer is also not a company employee but a lawyer working for an external law firm.
The next hearing on the case will be on August 6.