Temporary relief for Twitter India in criminal case filed in Uttar Pradesh

High Court of Karnataka  

In a temporary relief to Twitter India’s Managing Director Manish Maheshwari, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday restrained the Uttar Pradesh police from taking any coercive action against him till June 29 on a criminal case related to the Ghaziabad incident of uploading a video related to assault on an elderly Muslim man.

However, the court said the Loni Border police could question Mr. Maheshwari, who is residing in Bengaluru, through virtual mode till it decided the legal question of whether the High Court of Karnataka had the jurisdiction to entertain challenge to the notice issued by the Uttar Pradesh police.

Justice G. Narendar passed the interim order on a petition filed by Mr. Maheshwari questioning the notice by the Loni Border police on June 18 asking him to join the investigation after he replied to their earlier notice indicating that he was prepared to cooperate with the investigation through videoconference.

Earlier, Senior Advocate C.V. Nagesh had contended that Mr. Maheshwari was only an employee of Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd., looking after marketing and sales and had nothing to do with the process of uploading of content, as it was controlled by Twitter Inc, U.S.

It was also contended that though Mr. Maheshwari had been designated as Managing Director, he was neither the director nor a member of the Board of Directors as per the Companies Act, 2013, for holding him responsible on behalf of the company, which had been made as an accused in the First information Report.

Mr. Nagesh pointed out that the Uttar Pradesh police on June 17 issued notice through email under Section 160 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which in law meant that they wanted his statement as a witness. Mr. Maheshwari on June 18 replied that he would be available to record statement through virtual mode.

On June 21, Mr. Nagesh said, the Uttar Pradesh police issued a notice through e-mail under Section 41A of the Cr.PC, which meant that the police were now treating Mr. Maheshwari as an accused. It was also pointed out to the court that Mr. Maheshwari had not been arraigned as an accused individually in the FIR. Not allowing him to appear through virtual mode during the current situation was contrary to the apex court’s directions, Mr. Nagesh contended.

However, advocate P. Prasanna Kumar, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh police, raised a preliminary objection stating that the petitioner could not invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court of Karnataka in view of Article 226(2) of the Constitution.

Though the petitioner claimed to be a resident of Bengaluru city, in the email notice issued to him, the Uttar Pradesh police had mentioned his address as Mumbai, the counsel for Uttar Pradesh police said.

Keeping open the question of jurisdiction to be argued on June 29, the court, considering the liberty of an individual, directed the Uttar Pradesh police not to take coercive action while granting liberty for questioning through virtual mode if necessary.

Six individuals, including journalists, Twitter, the news website The Wire, were among the nine accused named in the FIR by the Loni Border police over uploading and circulation of a video in which the elderly man, Abdul Shamad Saifi, claimed that he was allegedly thrashed by some young men after compelling him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ . The police claimed that the video was shared to cause communal unrest.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 10:30:59 AM |

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