The Delhi High Court said that “the least” Twitter could have done was appoint an India-based grievance officer before the hearing on Tuesday and that Twitter gave a “wrong impression” to the court by not disclosing that its previous India grievance officer was an interim appointment.
A single judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli said that during the last hearing on May 31, Twitter’s counsel did not inform the court that Twitter’s India grievance officer at the time, Dharmendra Chatur, was an interim appointment.
“You have given the wrong impression [to the court]. You never said that Twitter’s grievance officer was interim,” Justice Palli told Senior Advocate Sajjan Poovayya who was appearing for Twitter.
To this, Poovayya said that he gave the information to the court “as per instructions” given to him by Twitter. Queries sent to Twitter did not elicit an immediate response.
The remarks were made during a hearing on a petition by lawyer Amit Acharya, in which he claimed non-compliance of the new social media rules by Twitter. On Monday, the government had filed an affidavit in the case and said that since Twitter hadn’t followed the social media rules, it has lost its legal immunity against third party content hosted on its platform.
Poovayya also informed the court that Twitter was “in the process” of appointing a grievance officer. However, Justice Palli wasn’t amused at Poovayya’s remarks.
“What do you mean [Twitter] is in the process? It has been two weeks since their interim grievance officer resigned. Twitter is clearly in defiance of the rules” she said.
“How long does Twitter’s process take?” asked Justice Palli. “If Twitter thinks it can take as long as it wants to take I can not permit that”.
Last month, Twitter’s interim grievance officer, Dharmendra Chatur, had quit. Poovayya informed the court that the reason why Chatur resigned from his post was because there was a lot of “precipitation going around” between the microblogging website and the Indian government and he did not want to put himself into that.
Another reason for Chatur stepping down was after the government objected that the grievance officer has to be a company employee while Chatur was a practising lawyer with the external law firm Poovayya & Co.
Poovayya admitted that since Twitter was yet to appoint chief compliance, nodal and grievance officer in accordance with India’s new social media rules, it was indeed not compliant with the rules.
“When an intermediary is not in compliance, they lose their legal immunity and face prosecution; they are exposed to that extent. Twitter should and will comply,” Poovayya assured the court.
Justice Palli listed the matter for July 8 and said that by then Twitter should be ready with its stance on compliance with all other provisions of the social media rules.