The Uttar Pradesh Police have booked Twitter India, some Congress leaders, and a few journalists for ‘inciting communal sentiments’ through tweets related to the assault of an elderly man in the Ghaziabad district of the state.
The journalists booked included award-winning scribe Rana Ayyub and Mohammed Zubair .
Soon after the FIR was lodged, the micro-blogging site reportedly lost intermediary status and could lose legal protection because of its failure to comply with new rules requiring it to appoint key officers in India, according to reports.
Hence, if there is any charge against Twitter for alleged unlawful content it would be treated as a publisher – not an intermediary – and be liable for punishment under any law, including IT Act, as also the penal laws of the country, according to news agency ANI
“We are keeping MeitY apprised of progress at every step of the process. The interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with Ministry directly soon. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with new guidelines,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to media.
In the FIR, the Police have invoked IPC sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) against them.
Twitter has been accused of not removing the “misleading” content linked to the 5 June incident in which an elderly Muslim man had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant “Vande Matram” by a group that assaulted him, according to a report in NDTV about Twitter losing the legal indemnity in India.
The Uttar Pradesh police have denied any communal angle in the incident saying that the victim and the accused knew each other.
In all, the FIR has named a list of nine accused including Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani, writer Saba Naqvi, online news portal The Wire, and Twitter Inc and Twitter Communications India Pvt.
Three people have so far been arrested for allegedly assaulting the elderly man, Abdul Samad Saifi. The victim Saifi alleged the men offered him an auto ride, took him to an isolated spot and beat him up, forcing him to chant Jai Shri Ram. But the Police said the accused beat him up because he had sold them an amulet that didn’t work for them. Those arrested so far in the case have been identified as Parvesh Gujjar, Adil and Kallu.
“The tweets by the accused had been broadcast on a large scale. The statements made through social media by the accused hint at a criminal conspiracy. The accused and other people tried to create animosity between Hindus and Muslims. The tweets were an attempt to destroy communal harmony. These false tweets had been retweeted by thousands of people. The accused include journalists and political persons who did not make an attempt to establish the truth in the case and spread false news,” said the FIR against Twitter and others.
It said that despite Ghaziabad Police clarifying the issue, the accused did not delete their tweets, neither did Twitter make any efforts to delete them.
The incident triggered a political war of words with Congress leader condemning the attack eliciting a response from UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath