Sameer Wankhede’s prayer for injunction overboard, untenable: Twitter

Published on Dec 17, 2021 07:50 PM IST

Sameer Wankhede and his wife filed an injunction for orders to social media platforms to disallow “scurrilous and defamatory messages” against them from being posted on their respective platforms

Twitter has said under the existing legal regime in India, the attribution of liability of an electronic record (message) is on the originator – the author of the message - and cannot be fastened on the intermediaries like them. (ANI)
Twitter has said under the existing legal regime in India, the attribution of liability of an electronic record (message) is on the originator – the author of the message - and cannot be fastened on the intermediaries like them. (ANI)

Mumbai In its reply to the plea filed by Mumbai zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Sameer Wankhede and his wife Kranti Redkar for orders to social media platforms to disallow “scurrilous and defamatory messages” against them from being posted on their respective platforms, Twitter has said under the existing legal regime in India, the attribution of liability of an electronic record (message) is on the originator – the author of the message - and cannot be fastened on the intermediaries like them.

Additional sessions judge S N Salve on Friday posted the plea for further hearing on December 21.

The affidavit adds that the Information Technology Act, 2000 defines the “originator” and the “intermediaries” as distinct classes and the definition of the “originator” encompasses a class of persons/entities, who would ordinarily be cast with the liability for publication of any material.

The exclusion of intermediaries from the class (originator) demonstrates the legislative intent of excluding intermediaries from being attributed with the liability for content which it hosts only “on behalf of other persons,” it said further.

The affidavit added that the law recognises the distinction between the two classes. “Section 79(1) of the IT Act exempts intermediaries from liability for third-party content that it hosts,” it said.

Twitter has termed the prayer for injunction as “overboard and ex-facie contrary to the settled law of defamation.” “This relief is untenable in law in as much as it suffers from the vice of casting judicial functions on an intermediary,” said the reply. “An intermediary cannot determine what content is malicious, defamatory or deprecatory. Such determination must be made by a judicial authority,” it added.

Wankhede’s plea filed before the Dindoshi sessions court stated that certain channels operating unrestrictedly on social media platforms were spreading “sponsored misinformation” about him and his wife at the “behest of the individuals against whom he had to act as part of his official duty.”

“When special investigation teams have been set up (to investigate some drug cases registered by NCB, including the one involving Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and another involving son-in-law of Nawab Malik) such continued illegal tirade against me and Plaintiff No. 2 (Redkar) is purely intended to discredit me and my official work,” the plea stated.

“It is only just and fair that the defendants (social media platforms) be directed to prevent the misuse of their platforms to threaten and defame me for being a Government servant, who has no other remedy,” the plea stated. Wankhede has sought an order under Section 79 of the IT Act asking that the companies stop airing, displaying, publishing malicious, defamatory, scurrilous against him and his wife.

This follows the 1.25-crore civil defamation suit filed by Wankhede’s father, Dnyandev Wankhede on November 5, against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik for posting what he called “derogatory comments on social media against my son and family”. Dnyandev also sought a permanent injunction restraining Malik and others “acting under his instructions” from publishing, writing or speaking in the media about the family, after the Maharashtra minister posted photos of Wankhede’s birth certificate and claimed that he had lied about his religion to avail caste-based reservation.

Wankhede and Redkar filed a plea for interim relief on November 8, in which they claimed that Wankhede is an “honest and upright officer” who has been instrumental in curbing illegal activities like smuggling and trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in Mumbai. Their plea stated that some unscrupulous elements, against whom Wankhede has taken action, have taken to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to launch a “tirade against him.”

“When special investigation teams have been set up (to investigate some drug cases registered by NCB, including the one involving Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and another involving son-in-law of Nawab Malik) such continued illegal tirade against me and Plaintiff No. 2 (Redkar) is purely intended to discredit me and my official work,” the plea stated.

“It is only just and fair that the defendants (social media platforms) be directed to prevent the misuse of their platforms to threaten and defame me for being a Government servant, who has no other remedy,” the plea stated. Wankhede has sought an order under Section 79 of the IT Act asking that the companies stop airing, displaying, publishing malicious, defamatory, scurrilous against him and his wife.

Additional sessions judge S N Salve on Friday posted the plea for further hearing on December 21.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2022
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