Twitter India’s Managing Director Manish Maheshwari, who was asked to appear before the Ghaziabad Police today in person in connection with the assault of a Muslim man in Loni, has been granted relief by the Karnataka High Court. The court has asked the police to conduct their inquiry virtually.
Maheshwari was supposed to appear before the Ghaziabad Police at 10:30 am today in person, but on Wednesday he challenged the police notice in a writ petition before the Karnataka High Court under Section 41A of the CRPC.
Ghaziabad Police had issued him a notice in connection with the case where a Muslim man was thrashed by a group of men and his beard was chopped off in Loni.
The social media giant had conveyed to the police that Maheshwari was available for questioning via video call but the cops sent fresh summons on Tuesday, asking the Twitter India MD to appear before it.
Maheshwari’s counsel, noted criminal defence attorney CV Nagesh, told the Karnataka High Court that Maheshwari was merely an employee of the organisation and ‘had nothing to do with the offence’.
Further, Nagesh informed the court that Maheshwari, on June 18, had replied to the police notice saying that he was not in charge of what goes on on the platform. He was in charge of advertising, sales and revenue for the platform, and that he was not aware of any of the details in this case. On June 21 however, Nagesh told the court, that Maheshwari was slapped with another summons to appear before the police on June 24.
The summons sent the second time were issued under section 41A virtually “treating him as an accused wherein absence will be considered as an attempt to fail the investigation."
Maheshwari objected to the summons saying he was being faulted for not responding to the first summons even though he had offered to join on virtual mode. “You (the police) cannot issue this notice to me at all," Nagesh told the court on behalf of his cleint, adding that he was a mere employee of accused number 9 (Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd). Accused number 8 is Twitter Inc.
Ghaziabad police counsel Prasanna Kumar told the court that “virtual mode is allowed only as an exception. Every accused cannot ask for a virtual mode."
Besides, it was not only because of non-cooperation but because of additional material the police may have got during their investigation between June 18 and 21 that the summons were issued, he informed.
Following this statement, Justice G Nagendar told the police to submit all this material before the court on June 29, the next date of hearing, while directing the police to not take any coercive action against him.
“If the police want to continue the investigation by examining petitioner they can do so by virtual mode," the court said while granting Maheshwati interim relief.
The Ghaziabad Police wants to quiz Maheshwari on Twitter’s alleged failure to remove a controversial video that reportedly showed a Muslim man being assaulted and his beard being cut off by the accused. The man had claimed that he was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Vande Mataram” though police ruled out the communal angle, saying the accused — both Hindus and Muslims — attacked the man after a dispute over amulets. The police are also expected to ask him about the number of complaints against the video and what action the micro-blogging platform has taken.
Twitter, news website wire.in, several journalists and Congress leaders were named in an FIR for allegedly “promoting enmity between religions” for posting and promoting the video.