Censorship, Twitter, & the Indian Government: Karnataka High Court Finds MeitY’s Blocking Orders Compatible with IT Act

Last week, the Karnataka High Court dismissed Twitter’s writ petition that challenged the blocking of Twitter accounts and certain tweets under Section 69 A of the IT Act, 2000. A 50 lakhs exemplary cost has imposed on Twitter.

The High Court judgement :one: contradicts the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shreya Singhal that upheld the validity of Section 69A solely on the ground that it had procedural safeguards like giving notice to the intermediary and originator before a blocking order is issued.

:two: The High Court has justified withholding reasons for blocking stating that in certain cases it would defeat the purpose of blocking as it would warn the errant users who would then spread more harm anonymously.

:three: Failing to provide a reasoned blocking order undermines the principles of natural justice, as it hinders the ability of affected parties to effectively and meaningfully challenge the blocking orders.

:four: Wholesale blocking of accounts is disproportionate & violates the user’s freedom of speech under Article 19(1) (a). This imposes prior restraint on speech, and creates a chilling effect, causing users to fear posting anything due to the risk of losing account access.

:five: The High Court held that Twitter cannot plead originators’ rights since no originator had complained of infringement of rights. Yet, the High Court dismissed human rights activist and author Aakar Patel’s intervention application concerning the blocking of his Twitter account in the case.

To learn more, read our recent blog post and for a more detailed analysis of this verdict’s implication for freedom of speech, read our Associate Litigation Counsel Radhika Roy & Gayatri Malhotra’s op-ed for The Hindu.