Twitter Invoking MLAT to Shield Offenders and Hamper Investigation: Delhi Police to Court
In its petition filed seeking trial under Section 175 IPC against Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and its India MD Manish Maheshwari, before a Delhi Court, the Delhi Police has disclosed that Twitter has sought requisition under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) through Courts of United States or Ireland, in response to information sought by Delhi Police.
The Government of India had entered into a Treaty for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters with the Government of USA in the year 2005.
Delhi Police has alleged that Twitter is resorting to dilatory tactics to shield offenders and hamper its investigation, by refusing to provide information that it is legally bound to provide.
Delhi Police had sought information from Twitter relating to twitter handles involved in an FIR registered by Delhi Police against AltNews Co-Founder Mohammed Zubair. The FIR was registered in September 2020 under Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act, for posting a photo of the minor daughter of a man with whom Mohammed Zubair had a spat on Twitter, without blurring the girl's face.
It is alleged in the petition filed by Delhi Police that in August 2020, Twitter responded to its requisition by stating that the same is under review by "appropriate team". In September 2020, it is alleged that Twitter sought "more context or additional information" for responding to the request of Delhi Police. Thereafter, it stated that a reminder sent by Delhi Police in November did not elicit any response from Twitter.
In January this year, Delhi Police sought registration details of certain handles for investigation purposes. This was followed by a reminder by the end of January. Twitter responded to this in February 2021 seeking requisition through courts as per MLAT.
Delhi Police has stated in its Kalandra submitted before a Delhi Court that, "The requisite information is required for investigation of a case registered in India and being investigated in India which is subject to jurisdiction of Courts based in India. The alleged tweets have been made by Indian citizens by using a computer source based in India and against Indian citizens. After lingering on for a period of 06 months, Twitter is asking for request under MLAT which is a complex inter-governmental time consuming process and it will take several more months to process the MLAT. Knowing fully that record of IP address is available for a period of only one year, Twitter is asking for MLAT and in this way Twitter is intentionally denying to provide requisite information to a public servant which they are legally bound to provide. The requisite information is available with Twitter and they are denying the requisite information and shielding the suspects/alleged person and hampering the investigation of the case by asking for MLAT."
Section 175 of IPC makes omission to produce document or electronic record before public servant by person legally bound to produce it an offence punishable with simple imprisonment up to one month.
Twitter had lost its intermediary status under the IT Act, after it failed to comply with the IT Rules, 2021. However, last month, Twitter had informed the Delhi High Court that it had complied with all requirements under the new IT Rules. However, even if Twitter regains its status as an intermediary, it may not be immune to prosecution for an offence under Section 175 of the IPC.
Citing the action initiated by Delhi Police against Twitter, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has sought impleadment of Twitter as a Respondent in the Writ Petition filed by Mohammed Zuabir before the Delhi High Court seeking to quash the FIR field by the Delhi Police.
The NCPCR has also sought a direction from Delhi High Court to Twitter to remove the post by Mohammed Zubair that lead to the FIR.