The Centre Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that it will introduce at “some point in time” a framework to regulate social media platforms, including de-platforming of users by them.
The Centre said the proposed framework would be prospective and therefore existing cases of suspension of social media accounts would have to be decided in terms of the existing regulations.
The statement was made by the central government counsel before Justice Yashwant Varma who was hearing a batch of petitions against the suspension of accounts of several social media users, including Twitter users.
“We have checked up in terms of your lordship’s (last) order. The amendment will take place at some point in time, we don’t really know (when). It will be prospective and (therefore) these cases will perhaps have to be decided (as per the existing scheme),” said advocate Kirtiman Singh, appearing for the Centre.
Granting further time to the Centre to apprise it of subsequent developments, the court deferred hearing on the petitions till December 19 while observing, “If the scope of the regulatory power that you (Centre) propose to invoke is known we will know what the contours of our jurisdiction are.”
In August, the court had asked the Centre to state if it was contemplating any draft regulatory measures relating to social media platforms.
During the hearing, the court on Wednesday questioned why the existing grievances on suspension and deletion of social media accounts should not be dealt with in terms of the proposed framework and said it wanted to understand the impact of any new regime on the cases before it.
“Before we enter into judgement, we also want to understand if there is any regulatory mechanism that they are proposing to implement (and) whether that would have any impact on this batch,” the court said.
Several petitions concerning the deletion and suspension of social media users are pending adjudication in the high court.
The batch includes the petition by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde against the permanent suspension of his Twitter account for allegedly re-tweeting two posts.
In its affidavit filed in one of the cases against the suspension of a Twitter account, the Centre has said that an individual’s liberty and freedom cannot be “waylaid or jettisoned in the slipstream of social and technological advancement” and the social media platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and conform to the Constitution of India.
It has said that social media platforms should not take down the account itself or completely suspend it in all cases and complete de-platforming is against the spirit of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Stating that it is the custodian of the users’ fundamental rights in cyberspace, the Centre has said that a social media account can be suspended or de-platformed only in cases such as in the interest of the sovereignty, security, and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or pursuant to a court order or the content is grossly unlawful such as sexual abuse material, etc.