The Telangana High Court on Friday asked Twitter to respond to the notices issued by a Chief Justice led bench in June 20202, asking it to show cause why it had not taken prompt action to remove "communal hashtags" from its website.
The division bench comprised by Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy has asked the US based company to file its counter affidavit in the matter by August 20, 2020.
Notices were issued to the company, alongwith the Central Government and the State Government last month on a PIL filed by Advocate Khaja Aijazuddin seeking restraint on all websites in India from carrying "islamophobic" posts that have the potential to hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community.
Though the Company had failed to enter appearance, the Counter affidavit filed on behalf of DGP, Hyderabad disclosed that Twitter had removed all objectionable content, including communal hashtags.
Intervening at this stage, the Court remarked that mere removal of the impugned content is "not sufficient". It clarified that the Petitioner had sought to streamline the issue so as to ensure that online social media networks or sites do not carry such messages, that have the capacity hurt or insult the feelings of any particular community, in the future.
The bench has therefore asked both Twitter as well as the Central Government, to file their Counter Affidavits by the next date of hearing. It has also directed the Addl. Solicitor General of India to inform Twitter to file a Counter, failing which the same shall be set ex-parte and right of filing of Counter affidavits will be forfeited.
Further, the Court has granted liberty to the Petitioner to serve personal notice on the Company's office in San Francisco through Fedex Courier.
In his plea, the Petitioner had pointed out that due to the "massive publicity" given to the members of the Tablighi Jamaat, who later tested Covid positive, the religious congregation was given a communal color, leading to widespread social media posts, linking the religion to the disease.
He had earlier approached the Supreme Court seeking to restraint online social media networks from carrying such content. However, the Top Court refused to intervene in the matter and allowed the Petitioner to withdraw the plea with the liberty to approach the Telangana High Court, pursuant to which the present petition was filed.
[Updated With Order]
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