Top Story Delhi HC to hear Sanjay Hegde's PIL over suspension...

Delhi HC to hear Sanjay Hegde’s PIL over suspension of his Twitter account on July 8


New Delhi, Apr 13 (ILNS) The Delhi High Court today, while allowing the early hearing application filed by Advocate Sanjay Hegde, said that it will hear his plea challenging the suspension of his Twitter account on July 8.

Mr Hegde, appearing before the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh, sought the court’s direction to the Centre to frame guidelines to ensure that online speech is not arbitrarily censored by social media websites, such as the one run by Twitter.

In his early hearing application, Mr Hegde sought a direction to Twitter to restore his Twitter account, which was permanently suspended on November 5, two years ago.

The early hearing application said, “The suspension of his Twitter account is contrary to the ‘Twitter Rules’ and its terms of use, illegal and arbitrary. A violation of his right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) A violation of his right to assembly and right to form association guaranteed by Articles 19 (1) (b) and 19 (1) (c) of the Constitution.

“Consequently, the petitioner seeks an appropriate writ, direction or order, directing the Centre to frame guidelines to ensure that online speech is not arbitrarily censored by social media websites such as the one run by Twitter,” added the application. 

The plea further stated that Section 79 (2) (c) read with Section 87 (2) (zg) of the Information Technology Act authorise the Central Government to prescribe guidelines to the intermediaries. 

“In exercise of these powers, the Central Government has laid down various guidelines regarding when content is to be taken down. However, no guidelines to ensure that legal speech is not censored have been laid down,” the plea said. 

Mr Hegde, through his application, informed the bench that the petition filed by him was first listed on December 16, 2019 and subsequently heard on January 6, 2020, wherein notice was issued to both respondents after hearing the petitioner’s arguments regarding maintainability of the plea.

“When the matter was taken up on February 11, 2020, the Counsel appearing for the Respondent Twitter had orally undertaken that the petitioner’s data would not be deleted from its servers and also sought time to file a note with submissions challenging the maintainability of the petition. The matter was not taken up for more than a year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted the application. 

The application said that during the pendency of this petition, thousands of other accounts have been similarly blocked. In some cases, access to content is disabled by Respondent No 2 (Twitter) without any notice, and without giving any explanation or reason whatsoever. In the petitioner’s own case, his account was suspended for posts, which have been put up by thousands of other users and continue to exist even today. ILNS/ANB/SS/RJ


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