Karnataka High Court Protects Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari From UP Police Coercive Action In Ghaziabad FIR
The Karnataka High Court on Thursday restrained the Uttar Pradesh police from taking coercive action against Manish Maheshwari, Managing Director of Twitter Communications India Private Ltd(TCIPL), pursuant to the notice issued to him under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the Ghaziabad FIR.The Twitter employee was asked by the UP Police to appear before Loni Border...
The Karnataka High Court on Thursday restrained the Uttar Pradesh police from taking coercive action against Manish Maheshwari, Managing Director of Twitter Communications India Private Ltd(TCIPL), pursuant to the notice issued to him under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the Ghaziabad FIR.
The Twitter employee was asked by the UP Police to appear before Loni Border Police Station in relation to the investigation on the Ghaziabad video issue.
A single bench of Justice G Narender passed the interim order in a writ petition filed by Maheshwari under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, challenging the UP Police notice.
"Prima facie the petitioner is apprehending deprivation of liberty", the bench orally said.
"There will be an interim order restraining the respondents from initiating any coercive action against the petitioner", the bench stated in the order.
In the meanwhile, if the police desires to examine the petitioner, they may do so in the virtual mode, the High Court said. The Court will hear the case further on June 28.
Submissions on behalf of Twitter India MD
Senior Advocate Nagesh submitted that the petitioner, being a mere employee of Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd, had no role to play in the circulation of the videos. It was submitted that the petitioner was not a member of board of directors of the company and was only the revenue head looking after advertisement sales. Although a designation of 'Managing Director' was given to him, such designation is not in terms of Section 2(54) of the Companies Act 2013.
He told the bench that the UP Police first served summons to Maheshwari under Section 160 of the CrPC to appear as a witness. Maheshwari replied to the notice saying that he was not in a position to travel to Ghaziabad from Bengaluru and requested for recording of statement through online. Later, notice under Section 41A CrPC was served on him threatening that arrest will be made against him if he failed to turn up at Loni Police Station, Ghaziabad.
"Twitter is not controlled or administered by me. Company's name is Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd. Who am I? An employee", Nagesh submitted.
Nagesh said that in the Vinod Dua case, the Supreme Court had allowed the recording of statements through online mode.
Maintainability of writ petition questioned by respondent
Advocate Prasanna, appearing for the respondent, objected to maintainability of the writ petition raising the issue of lack of territorial jurisdiction. Mere service of notice at a place will not confer jurisdiction there for the purposes of Article 226(2) of the Constitution, he argued.
Nagesh interrupted at this juncture saying that the remedy of anticipatory bail is not available in Uttar Pradesh as Section 438 CrPC has no application there.
The bench said that the question of maintainability can be decided later; but as the petitioner is apprehending arrest in Bengaluru, the question of interim relief needs to be considered.
"At least prima facie you must show that he is responsible for the material posted or that wing", the bench said.
Advocate Prasanna said that the relevant materials will be produced before the bench.
The FIR was registered over the tweets made by few journalists and politicians about the incident of an elderly Muslim man getting assaulted near Ghaziabad. It was alleged in the FIR that fake news was shared in Twitter that the attack was communal in nature.
The FIR was in the backdrop of an elderly Muslim man's claim in a video that his beard was cut off, and he was forced to chant "Vande Mataram" and "Jai Shri Ram". However, later on, the Uttar Pradesh Police ruled out any "communal angle" and said that Sufi Abdul Samad, the elderly man, was attacked by six men, as they were unhappy over the tabeez (amulets) he had sold them. It mentions offences punishable under Sections 153 (provoking to cause riots), 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 295A (insulting religious beliefs), 505 (statements inducing public mischief) & 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
Earlier this week, the High Court had issued notice on the transit anticipatory bail application filed by Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking portal 'AltNews', seeking protection in the FIR. In the Section 41A notice served on Zubari, the UP Police had stated that they were not intending to arrest him.
Journalist Rana Ayyub, another accused named in the FIR, was granted 4-week transit anticipatory bail by the Bombay High Court on June 21.