Justice Rekha Palli of the Delhi High Court on Monday observed the information technology (IT) rules of the Centre, if not stayed, will have to be obeyed by Twitter India and other such social media platforms.
The judge allowed three weeks for replies in an appeal filed by Advocate Amit Acharya, seeking action against Twitter and Twitter India for its failure to comply with the Centre’s IT guidelines within the legally tenable framework. This was after the respondents clarified that it had, on May 28, appointed a resident grievance officer.
The judge said: “I am inclined to issue notice. If the rules have not been stayed, then they have to comply with the rules.”
Advocate Sajan Poovayya for Twitter said: “The rules were not complied when the petition was filed but now we have complied. The resident grievance officer was appointed on May 28 and I’ll file an affidavit with regards to the same.”
There was a small interjection by Advocate Ripudaman Bhardwaj, for the petitioner, saying: “They have submitted that the resident grievance officer has been appointed, but we don’t know if they’ve appointed it as per law.”
The judge said: “Don’t interject just for the need of interjecting. That’s why I am issuing notice and not disposing of the plea.” The matter will be heard on July 6.
The plea was against the non-compliance of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 by Twitter and seeking an appropriate instruction against Union of India and Twitter to perform its statutory and executive duty under IT rules.
According to Rule 4(c) of the IT Rule, every Significant Social Media Intermediary has to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, who shall, subject to clause (b), be responsible for the functions referred to in sub-rule (2) of rule 3 While sub-rule (2) of rule 3 prescribes Grievance redressal mechanism of intermediary in the following words:
(a)The intermediary shall prominently publish on its website, mobile based application or both, as the case may be, the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details as well as mechanism by which a user or a victim may make complaint against violation of the provisions of this rule or any other matters pertaining to the computer resources made available by it, and the Grievance Officer shall –
(i) acknowledge the complaint within twenty four hours and dispose of such complaint within a period of fifteen days from the date of its receipt;
(ii) receive and acknowledge any order, notice or direction issued by the Appropriate Government, any competent authority or a court of competent jurisdiction.
(b) The intermediary shall, within twenty-four hours from the receipt of a complaint made by an individual or any person on his behalf under this sub-rule, in relation to any content which is prima facie in the nature of any material which exposes the private area of such individual, shows such individual in full or partial nudity or shows or depicts such individual in any sexual act or conduct, or is in the nature of impersonation in an electronic form, including artificially morphed images of such individual, take all reasonable and practicable measures to remove or disable access to such content which is hosted, stored, published or transmitted by it:
(a) The intermediary shall implement a mechanism for the receipt of complaints under clause (b) of this sub-rule which may enable the individual or person to provide details, as may be necessary, in relation to such content or communication link.
Rule 4 of the IT Rules, 2021 put Additional due diligence on significant social media intermediary (who have more than 50 lakh users or subscribers in India). It says that:
(1) In addition to the due diligence observed under rule 3, a significant social media intermediary shall, within three months from the date of notification of the threshold under clause (v) of sub-rule (1) of rule 2, observe the following additional due diligence while discharging its duties, namely:—(c) appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, who shall, subject to clause.
(b), be responsible for the functions referred to in sub-rule (2) of rule 3.
Explanation.— For the purpose of this clause “Residential Grievance officer” means the employee of a significant social media intermediary , who is resident in India;Additionally sub-rule (6) of rule 4 states that:
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(6) The significant social media intermediary shall implement an appropriate mechanism for the receipt of complaints under sub-rule (2) of rule 3 and grievances in relation to the violation of provisions under this rule, which shall enable the complainant to track the status of such complaint or grievance by providing a unique ticket number for every complaint or grievance received by such intermediary:
Provided that such intermediary shall, to the extent reasonable, provide such complainant with reasons for any action taken or not taken by such intermediary in pursuance of the complaint or grievance received by it.