New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday criticised Meta for its handling of a complaint lodged by TV Today Network regarding the suspension of its Instagram account for Harper’s Bazaar India.

Media conglomerate TV Today Network had moved the court earlier this month challenging the constitutional validity of Rule 3(1)(c) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet P.S. Arora expressed dissatisfaction with Meta’s response, stating that the social media platform’s handling of the complaint was “far worse than a government department”.

During the proceedings, TV Today’s counsel advocate Hrishikesh Baruah was asked by the court to fill out a form available on Instagram’s grievance redressal hyperlink in the presence of Meta’s counsel, advocate Tejas Karia.

However, despite filling out the form, Meta reportedly rejected the complaint, prompting further frustration from the bench.

The court admonished Meta for not addressing the complaint appropriately and warned that if the issue persisted, it would make a prima facie observation that the platform was deliberately stalling the process.

The bench stressed the need for Meta to streamline its grievance redressal mechanism and ensure that complaints are handled promptly and efficiently.

Karia informed the court that the email sent to TV Today was an automatic reply and not a decision to reject the complaint. However, the court rebuked Meta, stating that such responses were unacceptable as it likened the platform’s inefficiency to that of a government department.

Consequently, the court listed the matter for the next hearing on May 1 and directed Meta to issue an email to TV Today acknowledging receipt of the complaint and assuring that it would be addressed promptly.

Last time, the court had served notice to all the relevant parties, including the Union of India, and directed them to respond by May 17.

The rule in question mandates intermediaries to periodically inform the users about their rights and the consequences of non-compliance with the rules and regulations.

TV Today Network had argued that this rule infringes upon the constitutional provisions as it sought its alignment with the existing laws and constitutional articles.

It asserted its grievance over the suspension of its Instagram account for Harper’s Bazaar India due to third-party copyright complaints.

“The petitioners are aggrieved by suspension of petitioner No. 1’s Instagram account created for its magazine Harper’s Bazaar India i.e., ‘@bazaarindia’ based on third-party copyright complaints, ” the court had noted.

The network’s counsel had argued that the suspension violated constitutional rights under Articles 14 and 19, and claimed fair use under Section 52 of the Copyright Act for the flagged content. However, the court said that it can’t intervene until Instagram authorities were present before it.

TV Today Network had also pledged to appeal before the Grievance Appellate Committee as per the IT Rules. The bench ordered the committee to expedite the decision, preferably within two weeks, if an appeal is filed.

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