Social media giant Twitter on Friday termed as "frivolous" and not tenable on facts or in law the suit filed by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Zonal Director in Mumbai Sameer Wankhede and his wife against the company in a court here over some posts on its platform against the couple.
Wankhede and his actor-wife Karnti Redkar had approached a civil court in suburban Borivali last month, seeking a direction to restrain social media giants, including Twitter, from publishing or displaying any "malicious and defamatory" content against the couple on their platforms. The duo has also sought interim and ad-interim reliefs till their application was decided.
On Friday, Twitter filed its response before the court, saying it's an intermediary and not liable for content hosted on its platform under the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. "It is entitled to statutory immunity. If an intermediary is to regulate content which is available on its platform on its own, it loses the safe harbor immunity provided to it under the scheme of the IT Act," the reply said. Therefore, the micro-blogging and social networking site cannot be held liable for any objectionable content being posted by its users on its platform, it said.
The social media company further said the suit itself, and the application herein is, "false, frivolous, and vexatious and is not tenable on facts or in law" and deserves to be dismissed. Citing provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the company said the court doesn't have the jurisdiction to preside over the matter. It said the couple has sought to invoke the jurisdiction of this court based on their residence.
"However, it is settled law that the place of residence of the plaintiff's is not relevant to determine the territorial jurisdiction in any suit," the reply said. As per the CrPC, a suit can only be filed where the defendant resides or the cause of action arises. The plaintiffs have failed to show how the action arose within the jurisdiction of this court, it said.
On the interim relief plea, Twitter submitted that the prayer is "overbroad" and ex facie (defective) contrary to the settled principles of law, and cannot be granted. "No content has been identified in the interim application which is allegedly defamatory," it added. The micro-blogging site claimed there cannot be a blanket take down of an account, unless the court finds that all the tweets are defamatory. "This is more so because the plaintiffs have failed to make the account holder a party," it added.
It also denied the allegation that gossip and rumour are blown out of proportion by various users of the social media company. There is a legal mechanism to regulate content available on the platform. However, the plaintiffs' prayers seek to circumvent that legal process, the company told the court. Besides Twitter, in the suit filed before the civil court, the couple had sought permanent injunction against Google and Facebook. The suit claimed that "sponsored misinformation" is being spread on social media platforms by various "unscrupulous elements" at the behest of individuals against whom the NCB officer has acted.
It is clear that the "misinformation campaign" is a consequence of vested interests that are affected by investigations carried out by the NCB official, the plea, filed through legal firm Rex Legalis, has claimed. Google and Facebook filed their replies in previous hearings. The matter will be next heard on December 21.
Wankhede and his family members had been locked in a bitter spat with Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik, who over the last few months has made a series of allegations against them, all denied by the NCB officer and his kin. Wankhede's father has also filed a defamation suit against the state minister in the Bombay High Court.
-With PTI Inputs