HC advices Twitter not to delete data of senior advocate’s suspended account


New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday advised Twitter to not delete from its servers the data pertaining to a senior advocate’s account, which was permanently suspended by the social media giant.

Justice Navin Chawla said the court was not passing any formal order in this regard while advising the US-based firm not to delete senior advocate Sanjay Hegde’s data, in case it hasn’t done so already.

The court was hearing Hegde’s plea challenging permanent suspension of his account by Twitter on November 5, 2019, for allegedly re-tweeting two posts.

As an interim relief, Hegde, through senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, sought a direction to Twitter that the data of his account must not be deleted.

Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter Inc, opposed the petition saying it was not maintainable.

He sought time to file a brief note on the question of maintainability and on the issue of jurisdiction of the high court to entertain the petition.

The court allowed Twitter to file the note within two weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on March 27.

The government, in its response filed through central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh, said the issue of suspension of account was prima facie between Hegde and Twitter and it has not directed that the account be suspended.

It also submitted that the government was not a necessary party to these proceedings and claimed that the petition was not maintainable and it should be dismissed.

Regarding the plea for framing of appropriate guidelines, the Centre has claimed that it has fulfilled its statutory obligation by framing the Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

The senior advocate, in his petition, has also sought for directions to the Centre to frame guidelines for censorship on social media as per provisions of the Constitution.

In his plea, filed through advocate Pranjal Kishore, Hegde asked if large multi-national corporations like Twitter are not amenable to the constitutional scrutiny for their actions.

According to his petition, the first of the two posts re-tweeted by him, was of Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) Politburo. She had posted Gorakh Pandey’s poem ‘Unko phaansi de do’ on her Twitter profile.

Hegde had re-tweeted and shared Krishnan’s post with the caption ‘Hang Him’, an English translation of the poem’s title, the petition said.

The second post was a picture of August Landmesser which Hegde was using as his profile header/ cover photo for over a year, it said.

It said, “The photograph in question was taken on June 13, 1936 and shows a large gathering of workers at the Blohm Voss shipyard in Hamburg. Almost everyone in the image has raised his arm in the Nazi salute. The only exception is Landmesser, who stands behind the crowd, with his arms crossed over his chest.”

The petition stated that Hegde’s account was suspended purportedly for the use of the two posts whose original tweeters have faced no action.

The plea contended that suspension of the senior lawyer’s Twitter account “is illegal, arbitrary and contrary to the Respondent No.2’s (Twitter) own terms of use and rules” and also violates his right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.

“The arbitrariness of Respondent No.2’s conduct is clear from the fact that while the petitioner’s account was suspended for sharing a post/tweet by another user, no action has been taken against the user who wrote the original tweet. The same continues to be in public domain,” it said, adding that no action has been taken against those who had subsequently, shared the poem and photograph on their twitter profiles.

The petition said before coming to court, Hegde had followed the internal appeals procedure of Twitter, but his appeal was rejected.

He had also served a legal notice on the social media platform, but no response was received to the same, it said.-PTI