Madras HC lifts ban on TikTok app in India
Madurai, April 24, 2019: The Madras High Court Madurai Bench on Wednesday vacated its interim order prohibiting downloading and use of TikTok, the popular social media application owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
A division bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and S S Sundar lifted the ban after hearing the submissions made by the Chinese company.
The court, however, said if the regulatory mechanisms were not found to be effective as stated by the company in its submissions, it would attract contempt of court.
Senior counsel Isaac Mohanlal appearing for TikTok informed the court that there is technology in place to ensure that obscene content is not uploaded through the application. A counter affidavit to this effect had also been filed by the TikTok.
Further, the company made submissions on the steps taken to counter the apprehensions raised by the Court following its ban order.
Amicus Curiae (independent counsel) Arvind Datar, appointed by the court to examine the implications of the application argued that banning the application is not the solution and that the rights of legitimate users must be protected. He further submitted that there cannot be a system where something which is statutorily permissible becomes judicially impermissible.
He said TikTok was an intermediary and was protected by the Indian Information Technology Act’s intermediary guidelines. The IT act does not obligate the intermediary to screen all information being hosted on its portal, he argued.
Earlier, the Madras High Court Bench on April 3 directed the Centre to prohibit the download of TikTok on grounds that the application serves as a platform for the distribution of explicit and inappropriate contents likely to harm children.
By becoming addicted to TikTok and similar applications or cyber games, the future of the youngsters and mind set of the children were spoiled, the court observed.
The court also directed media organisations not to telecast the videos made using the application and asked whether the Union of India will enact legislation like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enacted by the United States to prevent the children becoming cyber victims.
A petition which was filed in the Madras HC called for a ban on TikTok, saying it put the lives of children in danger and exposed them to pedophiles’. The petitioner also submitted that the court ban ought to continue since it was a Chinese application, owing to the threats posed by China to India.
Following the government order, TikTok was blocked on the App Store and Play Store since April 18.
TikTok’s parent company, which is ByteDance (India) Technology Private Limited, had subsequently challenged the interim stay order in the Supreme Court by claiming that the Madras High Court’s interim order was based on exaggerations made by the petitioner in the case.
Hearing the TikTok petition, a Supreme Court Bench consisting of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna on April 22 ordered that the Madras High Court will hear and decide the prayers for vacation of the interim stay.
The Apex Court further said "if the Madras High Court does not decide on the TikTok petition by Wednesday, then its ex-parte stay order shall stand vacated." This would mean that the ban will no longer stand and the application will once again be available for download, if the court does not come to a final conclusion.(agency)