Twitter India chief gets court relief, for now


The Karnataka High Court on Thursday granted interim relief to Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari by directing the Uttar Pradesh police not to take any coercive action against him.

The case against Maheshwari is being watched closely as part of the crackdown against social media by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The Indian government’s new information technology rules have also drawn flak from the United Nations.

Experts at UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner have said in a report that it is concerned that India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in their current form, do not conform with international human rights norms.

The broadside against Twitter is being seen as a test case of how far the government of Prime Minister Modi — whose party, the BJP, is in power in Uttar Pradesh — is willing to go to crack the whip on social media.

Maheshwari had approached the high court for transit anticipatory bail in connection with the FIR filed by the police over tweets on the assault of an elderly Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.

The UP police had filed an FIR last week against Twitter India, several journalists, and Congress leaders after Abdul Samad alleged he was thrashed by some youth and forced to chant “Jai Sri Ram” and “Vande Mataram”.

Journalists Rana Ayyub and Saba Naqvi, and Congress party leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed, and Maskoor Usmani were also charged for posting and sharing “misleading” tweets and video, and “provoking communal sentiments”.

Police have ruled out a communal angle in the incident, saying the accused — both Hindus and Muslims — attacked the man after a dispute over amulets.

Rights activists and opposition parties have, however, alleged that holding selective people responsible for highlighting the victim’s version is part of a well-oiled machinery to stifle dissent.