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Karnataka High Court quashes the UP Police notice that mandated Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari to appear before them for enquiry. It further said that the police can either do the enquiry virtually or meet the petitioner at his residence or office address in Bengaluru.
Twitter India and the US headquarters was named as one of the accused in the case filed by the Ghaziabad police on June 15 for sharing a video of an assault on a 65-year-old person in the city, which was fake. The UP Police had sent notice to Maheshwari under Section 160 and Section 41A for appearing before the Ghaziabad police for further enquiry. This was challenged by Maheshwari and he filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court.
In his judgement on July 23, Justice G Narendar, said the UP Police trying to invoke Section 41A is an arm twisting tactics when it had not submitted any evidence proving that the petitioner (Maheshwari) is indeed capable and had powers over content on the platform.
“Provisions of the law cannot be permitted to become tools of harassment. In this case, the UP Police has not even placed an iota of material indicated that warrants notice under Section 41A,” Justice Narendar said.
In that context, he ruled that the writ petition filed by Maheshwari is maintainable and quashed “mala fide” notice sent by the UP Police under Section 41A. “Permit the interaction either on virtual mode or meet petitioner at his residence or office address,” he noted.
Video assault case
The video, which emerged earlier that month, showed miscreants attacking a senior citizen, identified as Abdul Samad Saifi, and cutting off his beard. In another video, the elderly man claimed he was assaulted due to his religion.
The UP Police alleged that Twitter did not take any steps to remove the content even after being aware that the video was fake, which furthered tension. A notice was sent to Maheshwari, asking him to appear before the police in Ghaziabad in June under Section 160 and Section 41A of the criminal procedure code.
Maheshwari challenged the notice in the Karnataka High Court on grounds that him being a resident of Bengaluru, the High Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter. He was granted interim relief.
During the course of the hearing, Maheshwari contested that one of the legal provisions under which he was booked, Section 41A, empowered police to arrest him on grounds that he didn’t cooperate with police, especially when he was just an employee and had no control over the content on the platform.
Maheshwari also said that he was a resident and worked from Bengaluru, which was not under the jurisdiction of the Uttar Pradesh police. The notice sent to him to appear before the police was not authorised under the law. It was also argued that Twitter India was not an intermediary and had no control over the content on the platform.
He further argued that the Twitter India and Twitter Inc, based in the US, are two different entities and the latter does not hold a single share in the former and hence there is no question of him being related to the Twitter US. Twitter India is owned by Twitter International, which is based in Ireland, holds 9999 shares and Twitter Netherlands, one share.
The Uttar Pradesh police denied the claims and said that if Maheshwari was Twitter India managing director, he would have to cooperate with the inquiry. According to the counsel representing the UP Police, while Twitter US might not own shares in India entity, it is the company’s sister concern that owns the company in India and hence there are no outside players.