Breaking: Madras High Court lifts Ban on download of TikTok mobile app
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Breaking: Madras High Court lifts Ban on download of TikTok mobile app

Bar & Bench

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today lifted its earlier ban on the download and use of the popular video-sharing app, TikTok.

The matter was taken up today following yesterday’s Supreme Court order directing the High Court to decide on the question of interim relief for TikTok. The Apex Court had stated that if the Madras High Court fails to decide on the interim relief on today, the interim order would stand vacated.

The Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar lifted the ban today after hearing submissions made by TikTok and Amicus Curiae, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar.

Appearing for TikTok, Senior Advocate Isaac Mohanlal informed the Court that there is technology in place to ensure that nude/obscene content is not uploaded through the app. A counter affidavit to this effect had also been filed by TikTok. Further, TikTok also made submissions on the steps taken to counter the apprehensions raised by the Court following its April 3 ban.

Amicus Curiae Datar’s submissions primarily focused on the Intermediary Guidelines under the Information Technology Act. He also submitted that online speech is protected under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution. In this backdrop, he submitted that there cannot be a system where something which is statutorily permissible becomes judicially impermissible. He told the Court that banning the app is not the solution and that the rights of legitimate users must be protected.

A petitioner in the case submitted that the Court ban ought to continue since it was a Chinese app, owing to the threats posed by China to India.

The Court, however, made it clear that it is only concerned about the protection of online users, particularly children, against cybercrime. Following today’s submissions, the Court has now decided to vacate its interim order banning the app.

The High Court had passed the interim order earlier this month while issuing the following directions:

  • The Government is directed to prohibit downloading of Tik Tok Mobile App.
  • The Media is prohibited from telecasting the videos made using Tik Tok Mobile App.
  • The Government has to answer whether the Union of India will enact a statute, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted by the United States, to prevent the children becoming cyber/online victims.

The High Court passed the order after expressing concern that the app hosts inappropriate content, including pornography, which is available for access to children. The Bench has also expressed its consternation that minors are also exposed to strangers online through TikTok.

TikTok had subsequently challenged the order in the Supreme Court. The company had claimed that the Madras High Court’s interim order was based on exaggerations made by the petitioner in the case. The Supreme Court, however, decided to defer consideration of the matter and directed the Madras High Court to take a call.

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