Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, whose twitter account was suspended twice last week, has served a legal notice upon Twitter Inc., asking it to restore his account and to provide a public apology for damaging his reputation.
The notice sent by Advocate Pranjal Kishore is also addressed to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics Information and Technology, seeking the intervention of the Ministry in the matter.
The notice stated that the the posts on Hegde's account had not violated any of the Twitter's user norms and thus his fundamental right to speech had been infringed.
Citing depiction of "hateful imagery", Twitter had blocked Hegde's account on Sunday, October 27, for posting the picture of August Landmesser wherein he refused to the Nazi salute at a rally, when everybody around him was doing it; a picture Hegde claims has been up for several months as his cover photo.
Following a massive virtual uproar in his favour, Twitter restored his account the next day, only to block it again, this time for sharing the poem titled "Hang Him". Hedge said that the said post dated back to 2017, where he had retweeted the poem posted by Kavita Krishnan, which dealt with the hanging of two peasant revolutionaries in Independent India.
Hegde has contended that the said posts did not violate any of Twitter's posting norms.
The picture of August Landmesser does not fall under the category of 'hateful imagery' and the Poem is a comment against capitalist system which denies basic rights to the poor, Hegde said. He added that the cover image was an iconic picture against majoritarianism and was not a Nazi image as the Twitter's profiling system thought.
'Will Take Twitter To Court', Sr Adv Sanjay Hegde On Suspension Of His Account [Video Interview]
He added that he had only quote tweeted the original tweet containing the poem and that non-removal of the original tweet depicted that the Twitter's action in blocking his twitter handle "@sanjayuvacha" was arbitrary and illegal.
Hedge was communicated that his account will be restored if he removes the "objectionable post" however; he chose to appeal against it, following which his account was suspended. On Tuesday, Twitter informed him by an email that his account will not be restored.
Through his Twitter handle named "@sanjayuvacha", Hegde has been expressing fiery criticism of the Central Government on many issues. Before suspension, his account had nearly 98,000 followers.
Citing the landmark ruling in Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India (1972) 2 SCC 788, Hegde said that the freedom to express, protected by Article 19(1)(a) will be rendered "meaningless" if private entities will be allowed to infringe on fundamental rights, relying on their private ownership.
He quoted from Secy. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India v. Cricket association of Bengal (1995) 2 SCC 161,
"One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce when medium of information is monopolised either by a partisan central authority or by private individuals or oligarchic organisations."
Hegde said that the blockage was a result of an organized attack by "troll factories" and "IT cells", and certain organizations have claimed credit for suspending his account. He said that algorithms are not able to take into account subjective decisions like a person's intent, humor, etc. and this has a serious "chilling effect" on online speech.
With these remarks, he insisted that there was a need for guidelines to enforce the effective implementation of Article 19(1)(a), especially in today's era when citizens largely relied on platforms such as twitter for obtaining and disseminating information.
Accordingly, he asked the Union Minister to direct twitter to immediately restore his account and to issue guidelines to ensure that any censorship of speech on social media is carried out strictly in accordance with Article 19(1)(a).
Click here to download the legal notice
[Read the notice]