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Twitter tells Delhi High Court: In final stages of appointing resident grievance officer for India

Twitter Inc has informed the Delhi High Court that it is in the final stages of appointing a resident grievance officer for India. The reply has been filed in a pending plea by Amit Acharya, the petitioner, who contended that the three-month period got over on May 25, 2021, but to date, no resident grievance officer has been appointed by Twitter to deal with complaints regarding tweets on its platform.

In its affidavit, Twitter Inc said the grievance of the petitioner was received and acknowledged by the answering respondent/ Twitter Inc within 24 hours on May 26, 2021. Further, the grievance has also been disposed of within the period of 15 days on June 9 as prescribed by Rule 3(2)of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“Intermediaries Guidelines”). The matter is listed for hearing on July 6 before the Delhi High Court. 

The affidavit further stated that, “In substantial compliance with Rules 3 (2) and Rule 4 (1)(c) of the Intermediaries Guidelines, the Answering Respondent has appointed an interim resident grievance officer, whose details were uploaded on the website of the respondent on 29.05.2021. However, even before steps could be taken to completely formalize the arrangement, the interim resident grievance officer withdrew his candidature on 21.06.2021.”

“Therefore, the answering respondent is in the final stages of appointing a replacement while in the meanwhile the grievances of Indian users are being addressed by the Grievance Officer,” the affidavit read. 

Twitter has further submitted that the present petition is not maintainable and the issue of maintainability should be decided prior to hearing the petition on merits. It also informed the Court that it is in the final stage of appointing an interim Chief Compliance Officer and the details of which has been forwarded to the Centre. Twitter Inc therefore prayed the Delhi High Court to dismissed the petition in limine as not maintainable

Twitter also claimed that the claim of the petitioner should be rendered infructuous since he hasn’t made authors of those tweets as party respondents from whom he is aggrieved of. The Delhi High Court on May 31, 2021, had issued notice to the Centre and the Twitter Inc to file its reply in a plea which raised a grievance regarding non-appointment of “Resident Grievance Officer” which is mandated to appoint under the Rules. 

The petition has been filed before the Delhi High Court alleging that Twitter has not complied with the Centre’s IT Rules to appoint a resident grievance officer, and sought directions to the social media platform to comply without any delay. Petitioner Amit Acharya stated that the Information Technology Rules came into effect from February 25 and the Centre had given three months to every social media intermediary, including Twitter, to comply with them.

In his plea, filed through advocate Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar, Acharya said he came to know about the alleged non-compliance when he tried to lodge a complaint against a couple of tweets.

Under the new digital rules, social media companies like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been asked to identify within 36 hours the originator of a flagged message as well as conduct additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

The petitioner has categorically mentioned two alleged and objectionable tweets i.e. The first objectionable tweet was made by one user namely Mahua Moitra having user Id @MahuaMoitra. The tweet was made on 25.05.2021. In the tweet the user had made false and frivolous allegations on Republic of India and had written the following quote:

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“Welcome to our Susu Potty Republic! Drink Gaumutra, smear cowdung & flush the rule of law down the toilet

@DelhiPolice issue notice to Twitter & land up in their offices for rightly calling out @BJP’s fake document as manipulated media. Go figure”

The second objectionable tweet was made by one user namely Swati Chaturvedi having user Id @bainjal. The tweet was made on 26.05.2021 at 10.33 AM. In the tweet the user had made false and frivolous allegation against former Chief Justice of India and had written the following tweet:

“If Bobde had been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Modi would have been able to appoint his favorite Gujarat IPS, official Rakesh Asthana. What a huge difference a CJI who follows the law makes.”

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