India’s federal government Monday told the Delhi High Court that social media giant Twitter Inc. has failed to comply with India’s new IT Rules, which is law of the land and is mandatorily required to be complied with.
The government, in an affidavit filed in the high court, said any non-compliance amounts to breach of provisions of IT Rules, also known as The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), Rules, 2021 notified on February 25, 2021, leading to US-based Twitter losing its intermediary immunity conferred under the norms.
The government submission was filed in response to a petition by lawyer Amit Acharya where he claimed non-compliance of the new IT Rules by the microblogging platform.
The matter is scheduled to come up for hearing on Tuesday.
The federal government affidavit, filed by N Samaya Balan, working as Scientist-E in the Cyber Law Group with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), said admittedly Twitter Inc. is an intermediary within the meaning of provision of IT Act, 2000 and a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI) under the IT Rules 2021.
It said that in spite of the three months’ time granted to all intermediaries to comply with the IT Rules 2021, which expired on May 26, Twitter failed to fully comply with the same.
“I submit that the respondent No.2 (Twitter Inc.) had initially appointed the interim resident grievance officer (RGO) and the interim nodal contact person. Later the respondent No.2 (Twitter Inc.) informed the answering respondent (MEITY) that the said interim RGO and nodal officer have withdrawn/ resigned from their positions.
I submit that as per the details gleaned from the respondent No. 2 website/mobile application, in the interim the grievances from India are being handled by personnel of respondent No. 2 situated in the United State of America which amounts to non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021,” the government submission said.
The affidavit, filed through federal government standing counsel Ripudaman Singh Bhardwaj, said that Twitter has failed to comply with the IT Rules, 2021 as on July 1 for the following reasons: chief compliance officer has not been appointed; the position of the RGO is vacant; the position of nodal contact person (even on an interim basis) is vacant, and the physical contact address, which was shown to be there on May 29, is not available again on Twitter website.
The government said as Twitter qualifies as a significant intermediary, it is obligated to comply with the provisions of the IT Rules, 2021. On July 3, Twitter had also filed its affidavit stating that it was in the “final stages” of appointing an interim chief compliance officer and an interim resident grievance officer under the new IT Rules.
In the meantime, grievances raised by Indian users are being looked into by a grievance officer, it has said.
The microblogging site has also said it may fall within the definition of a “significant social media intermediary” under the IT Rules, 2021.
The rules seek to regulate dissemination and publication of content in cyber space, including social media platforms, and were notified in February by the Indian government.
Twitter has argued that the present plea is not maintainable and that Acharya moved the court “prematurely” without waiting for his grievance to be redressed under the rules.