Karnataka High Court Asks in Twitter’s Challenge: Can Centre Withhold Reasons Behind Blocking Orders The Karnataka High Court sought details about about global legal approaches on how online posts are ordered to be blocked from the the social media company Twitter and the Union of India. The single judge, Justice Krishan S Dixit questioned both the Centre and Twitter for not sharing...
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Karnataka High Court Asks in Twitter’s Challenge: Can Centre Withhold Reasons Behind Blocking Orders
The Karnataka High Court sought details about about global legal approaches on how online posts are ordered to be blocked from the the social media company Twitter and the Union of India.
The single judge, Justice Krishan S Dixit questioned both the Centre and Twitter for not sharing or asking the reason for blocking of the 39 Twitter accounts.
“How 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?”, the Court inquired.
It further asked, “How would the USA have treated an Indian Entity before it? That also needs to be addressed.”
The Court sought response, after it was informed by Twitter that Union of India failed to furnish any reasons to Twitter along with the impugned blocking orders.
Advocate Manu Kulkarni, representing the company, informed the Court that besides an order of blocking the accounts, no further reasoning was given in written.
To this the Court queried, whether Twitter had asked for the reasons to be supplied to it.
Following which the advocate responded, “There was a hearing provided wherein it was told to me that some of the content we wish you to take down. So far as I am concerned, they explain it to me and hear my objection and then an order is issued to me. Thus, so far as I am concerned the central government cannot possibly say that at the time of hearing, I will disclose the reasons to elucidate your response but at the time of recording the order I will withhold the reasons.”
“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,” the Court asked.
Noting that at a time “when the whole world is moving towards transparency”, the judge said, “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?”
During the hearing, the Court asked from Twitter’s counsel whether they can claim fundamental rights under Article 19(1) and Article 21 since they are a foreign entity. To this, Twitter’s counsel told the court that the rights guaranteed under Article 14 would be available to foreign entities and foreigners as well.
“The Rights guaranteed under Article 14 would be available to foreign entities and foreigners as well,” the rejoinder added.
While referring to Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case it was said “The Apex Court chose not to strike down the provisions of section 69A, one of the reasons being availability of writ Court remedy.”
Earlier, the Twitter Inc moved before the High Court seeking to overturn orders issued by the Government of India through the Ministry of Electronic & IT directing the company to take down content on the social media platform.
The notices and blocking orders sent to the company were under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Twitter was further asked by the authorities to act and shut down content including accounts regarding farmers' protest, alleged mismanagement of Covid-19.