Twitter India MD had moved the High Court challenging the summons issued by the Ghaziabad police in connection with its probe into the viral video of the elderly Muslim man.

A hand holding up a mobile phone showing the Twitter log in page on the screen
news Court Thursday, June 24, 2021 - 17:56

The Karnataka High Court granted interim relief to Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari in his petition challenging the summons issued to him by Ghaziabad police. Maheshwari, who lives in Bengaluru in Karnataka, had been summoned by the police in connection with its probe into the viral video of an elderly Muslim man being attacked on camera. He had moved the High Court contesting the summons asking him to appear in Ghaziabad before the police. 

Maheshwari told the court that the Ghaziabad police had first issued him a summons notice as a witness, to help in the investigation of the case. “Just two days before they issued me a notice under Section 41A of the CrPC (notice for appearance before a police officer), they had issued a notice under Section 160 CrPC, calling me as a witness,” Maheshwari’s counsel told the court.

In an interim order, the Karnataka High Court said that the matter requires consideration, and restrained the Ghaziabad police from initiating any coercive action against Manish Maheshwari till June 29 which is when the court said it will hear the case further. The court added that in the meantime, if the Ghaziabad police want to examine Maheshwari, they shall do so through the virtual mode. Maheshwari had earlier told the Ghaziabad police that he is ready to join the probe via video call.

The summons sent to Maheshwari were a part of the Ghaziabad police’s probe into the FIR it has filed against Twitter India and news website The Wire, as well as journalists Mohammed Zubair, Rana Ayyub, author Saba Naqvi, Congress politicians Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani and Shama Mohamed have also been accused of sharing the video with an intention to provoke communal unrest. The journalists had made it clear that they had only shared the victim's version. Rana Ayyub had also moved the Bombay High Court with a transit anticipatory bail application, and the court granted her protection from arrest for four weeks. Mohammed Zubair has also moved the Karnataka High Court with pre-arrest bail, and the court has issued notice in the case.

In the viral video clip an elderly Muslim man identified as Abdul Shamad Saifi had alleged he was attacked and asked to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. The Ghaziabad police, however, ruled out a communal angle and said that the incident was a result of personal enmity as the accused were unhappy about a 'tabeez' (amulet) Saifi had sold to them. Saifi’s family has denied the police’s version.

In the FIR, the Ghaziabad police said that despite the police’s statement on the incident, those named as accused did not take down their tweets where they had shared the video. Twitter has also been named in the FIR as it did not take any action to take the tweets down, the police said. 

The Ghaziabad police have been criticised for filing an FIR against journalists and a news website. The Wire responded to the FIR with a statement saying that the action by the police is "an attempt to criminalise the reporting of anything other than the official version of events." The Editors Guild of India had also condemned the "wanton misuse of laws to criminalize reporting and dissent to harass independent media" in a statement. 

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