In a recent ruling, the High Court of Karnataka has imposed a cost of Rs. 50 lakh on X (formerly Twitter) for failure to comply with orders from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY). However, a division bench of the High Court has stayed the single judge bench order, requiring X to deposit 50 percent of the amount (Rs. 25 lakh) within one week.
The decision to deposit Rs. 25 lakh is necessary for X to demonstrate its bonafides, as mandated by the court. This temporary relief will remain in effect until the next date of hearing, suspending the single judge’s order that had initially directed X to deposit Rs. 50 lakh by August 14. The division bench, consisting of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice MGS Kamal, made this provisional ruling while considering a petition filed by X, challenging the take-down orders on tweets, URLs, and hashtags.
Justice Krishna S Dixit had previously dismissed X’s petition against the take-down orders and imposed a cost on the company in a judgment issued on June 30. The single judge bench concluded that X failed to comply with the orders issued by MeiTY over a year ago before seeking recourse through the High Court. Under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, MeiTY had issued ten government orders between February 2, 2021, and February 28, 2022, instructing X to block 1,474 accounts, 175 tweets, 256 URLs, and one hashtag. X had challenged the orders pertaining to 39 of the URLs affected.
The division bench, in the interim order, directed X to deposit Rs. 25 lakh within one week to the court. However, it emphasized that the monetary deposit should not be misconstrued as an indicator that the court favors X’s arguments. The central government counsel, Kumar M N, representing MeiTY, argued that the case itself was not maintainable. Adhering to the single judge bench’s ruling that X had legal standing to challenge the blocking of tweets and user accounts, the division bench drew an analogy between X and a shop selling various products. The court opined that holding X accountable for substandard products would be equivalent to penalizing the shopkeeper.
Conclusion and Future Hearings
While granting temporary relief to X by staying the initial deposit order, the division bench adjourned the appeal hearing for two weeks. This ruling has significant implications for X, as the court’s decision will determine the future course of action for the social media platform. The outcome of this legal battle could have broader consequences for other tech companies navigating the intersection of freedom of expression, government regulations, and user privacy. As the case unfolds, it remains uncertain how the court will ultimately resolve the dispute between X and MeiTY.