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Karnataka HC quashes UP Police notice to Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari

In a major relief for Twitter India’s MD Manish Maheshwari, the Karnataka High Court quashed the notice that was issued to him by the Uttar Pradesh Police for physically appearing in front of them in relation to the investigation into the spread of a viral video on Twitter’s social media platform.

The court held that the notice was “malafide” and an “arm twisting method” by the Uttar Pradesh Police. 

“The very notice [issued to Maheshwari] itself threatens punitive action and deprivation of liberty which admittedly is a fundamental right,” a single judge bench of Justice G Narender held on Friday while pronouncing the verdict in the case. 

Maheshwari had filed a plea at the Karnataka High Court against the UP Police notice and had said that he would cooperate with the investigation over a video call. In an interim order passed on June 24, the court had restrained the state’s police from taking any coercive action against Maheshwari. 

The Uttar Pradesh Police had filed an FIR against Twitter Inc. and Twitter India alleging that they had not done enough to stop the circulation of the viral video where an elderly Muslim man was being assaulted by some men. 

Even though Maheshwari was not named in the FIR, the police had summoned him to the Loni Border police station for questioning. Maheshwari, however, said he’d only appear via video conferencing. 

Maheshwari’s main contention is that he is the revenue head and is in charge of advertising sales for Twitter India. However, Twitter India, and Maheshwari, have nothing to do with content posted on the Twitter platform since that is operated and managed by Twitter Inc. He also changed his Twitter bio to reflect this. 

To be sure, the Uttar Pradesh Police had issued two notices to Maheshwari after Twitter India was named in the FIR related to the viral video case where an elderly Muslim man was being assaulted. The police had alleged that the platform did not do enough to stop the circulation of the video.

The first notice was issued under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or CrPC directing him to appear in person for questioning and a second notice was issued under Section 41A of the CrPC after Maheshwari, in response to the first notice, said he could only appear via video conferencing.

On Friday, the Karnataka High Court quashed both the notices while even noting that the Section 41A notice was “malafide” and an “arm twisting method”. The court said that the Uttar Pradesh Police failed to show even an iota of material which would demonstrate Maheshwari’s involvement in circulating the viral video. 

“Provisions of the statute can’t be permitted to become tools of harassment,” Justice Narender held. 

He further said that in case the Uttar Pradesh Police desires to secure a statement from Maheshwari in relation to the investigation, they may do so virtually or by paying him a visit to his Bengaluru addresses. 

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