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SC Notice to Twitter Official on UP's Plea Against Quashing of Notice in Communally Sensitive Case

The Karnataka High Court has interfered with the summons issued to the then Twitter Managing Director by the Uttar Pradesh Police, the law officer had said. (File photo: PTI)

The Karnataka High Court has interfered with the summons issued to the then Twitter Managing Director by the Uttar Pradesh Police, the law officer had said. (File photo: PTI)

Earlier, the state government, which has filed the plea through Senior Superintendent of Police of Ghaziabad, had on September 8 mentioned its appeal for an urgent hearing.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from former Twitter Managing Director Manish Maheshwari on an appeal of the Uttar Pradesh government against the Karnataka High Court's decision to quash a notice seeking his personal appearance as part of the probe into a communally sensitive video uploaded by a user on the microblogging site. A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, and issued notice to Maheshwari, who has been transferred to the USA by his employer Twitter Inc in August.

We issue notice. We need to hear the case, said the bench which also comprised justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli. Earlier, the state government, which has filed the plea through Senior Superintendent of Police of Ghaziabad, had on September 8 mentioned its appeal for an urgent hearing.

The plea challenges the July 23 order of the Karnataka High Court quashing the notice issued to Maheshwari to appear before the police and cooperate in the probe related to uploading of a communally sensitive video on Twitter. The Karnataka High Court has interfered with the summons issued to the then Twitter Managing Director by the Uttar Pradesh Police, the law officer had said.

Holding the notice as mala fide, the high court had said the notice under Section 41(A) of the CrPC should be treated as Section under 160 of CrPC, allowing the Ghaziabad Police to question Maheshwari through virtual mode, at his office or his residential address in Bengaluru. Section 41 (A) of the CrPC gives power to police to issue a notice to an accused to appear before it when a complaint is filed and if the accused complies with the notice and cooperates, then he is not required to be arrested.

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Maintaining that the provisions of the statute under Section 41(A) CrPC should not be permitted to become "tools of harassment", it had said the Ghaziabad Police did not place any material which would demonstrate even the prima facie involvement of the petitioner, though the hearing has been going on for the past several days. "In the background of the fact that section 41(a) notice was issued by mala fide, the writ petition (filed by Maheshwari seeking quashing) is maintainable. Accordingly, the notice under section Annexure A notice shall be read as section 160 of the CrPC," the high court had said.

"The action of the respondent (Ghaziabad Police) trying to invoke section 41(A) of the CrPC gives no doubt in the mind of court that the same has been resorted to as an arm-twisting method as the petitioner refused to heed to the notice under section 160 of the CrPC," it had observed. The Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) Police had issued a notice under Section 41-A of the CrPC on June 21 asking him to report at the Loni Border police station at 10:30 AM on June 24.

Maheshwari then moved the Karnataka High Court as he was at that time staying in Bengaluru in Karnataka. On June 24, the High Court, in an interim order, restrained the Ghaziabad Police from initiating any coercive action against him. The Ghaziabad Police on June 15 booked Twitter Inc, Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd (Twitter India), news website The Wire, journalists Mohammed Zubair and Rana Ayyub, besides Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani, Shama Mohamed and writer Saba Naqvi.

They were booked over the circulation of a video in which an elderly man, Abdul Shamad Saifi, alleged that he was thrashed by some young men, who also asked him to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' on June five. According to police, the video was shared to cause communal unrest.

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first published:October 22, 2021, 14:40 IST