Written by Vidisha Mathur
10 blocking orders were issued by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) between February 2021 and February 2022; directing Twitter to block information from access to the public and suspend various accounts. These blocking orders have been submitted to the Karnataka High Court via sealed covers as Annexure A through K.
The Blocking order refers to 1,474 accounts and 175 tweets; though, out of these, Twitter has only challenged the blocking of 39 URLs.
On June 4 and 6, 2022 – MEITY, through show-cause notices, inquired why Twitter refused to block some information, to which Twitter responded by stating that the content and accounts that it did not block did not come under Section 69A of the IT Act and requested MEITY to reconsider its order.
Under Section 69A of the IT Act, the Union Government may order Intermediaries like Twitter to block access to information available online, if it is a case of national interest or public order and safety
June 27, 2022 – a notice to Twitter warned of severe consequences as per the IT Act. Twitter though contended that it was not in violation of the act. In a meeting held between MEITY and Twitter, MEITY agreed to withdraw the blocking orders for 10 account-level URLs and updated a list of 27 URLs for Twitter to block.
Twitter moved to the Karnataka High Court challenging the orders that unjustified account-level blocking was a violation of rights as provided for by the Constitution. Even the IT Act permits that only access to information is blocked, but account-level blocking obstructs the generation, transmission, reception, etc. of Information as well.
Its petition, filed through Advocate Manu Kulkarni of Poovayya and Co., Twitter contends that the Blocking orders of the disputed accounts are arbitrary and do not invoke Section 69A of the IT Act. The orders also fail to comply with Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 or the rules given by the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v UOI.
Twitter pleads with the High Court to quash and/or modify the order as per the law.