HC questions Centre for not giving any reasons over blocking Twitter accounts

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Monday asked the central government why it had not given any reasons for blocking some accounts on Twitter in light of the takedown orders issued last year.

The bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit, which is hearing a petition by Twitter challenging the various takedown orders of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), asked the government counsel, “Why you did not supply the reasons to them (Twitter). What is that you wish to withhold? Court wants to know what is so much an important thing which prevented the government from disclosing the reasons when the section (69A) uses the word ‘reasons to be recorded’.”

When asked by the HC bench if the response would be provided to the court, counsel Kumar M N replied that “whatever decision is made can be supplied to the court.”

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The court also observed that the world was moving towards transparency and Section 69A of the Information Technology Act requires recording of reasons for takedowns.

“The whole world is moving towards transparency. If it would have been regarding sovereignty etc., we would have understood. You called them for the meeting and you did not agree with the reasons given by them and passed the impugned order. Is it not necessary for him to know why you do not agree with his reasons?” the court said.

Twitter approached the HC in June 2022 against the orders issued by the ministry.

The Centre had argued that Twitter being a foreign entity cannot claim enforcement of fundamental rights. Objecting to this, Twitter informed the court that it was invoking the writ jurisdiction for violation of protocols prescribed under Section 69A of the IT Act. It also claimed in a rejoinder to the court that rights under Article 14 were available to foreign entities also.

The court then asked both Twitter and the Union government to clarify the issue of how Indian entities would be treated in the United States and foreign jurisdictions on such issues.

“In other jurisdictions whether disclosure of reason is treated as a matter of force or whether the government can withhold reasons? Whether any element of state sovereignty is involved in this? How would the USA have treated an Indian entity before it? That also needs to be addressed,” the court asked, adjourning the hearing to April 12.

Twitter has claimed that the government was required to issue notice to the owners of the Twitter handles against whom blocking orders are issued. Twitter had said that it was barred from informing the account holders about the takedown orders of the government.

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( With inputs from )

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