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    TikTok may mount a legal challenge against ban

    Synopsis

    The platform was one of 59 Chinese mobile applications that was banned on Monday.

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    MUMBAI: TikTok is considering legal options against the ban on the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform in India, two lawyers with direct knowledge of the matter said. It held discussions with a Mumbai-based law firm on Tuesday on how the government ban could be challenged in courts, they said.

    A TikTok spokesperson on Thursday denied that the company is pursuing legal action. "We have no plans to pursue such action. We are committed to working with the government to address its concerns. We comply with the laws and regulations of the Government of India. Ensuring the data sovereignty, security and privacy of our users has always been and will continue to be a top priority for us," the spokesperson said.

    The platform, owned by China-based ByteDance, was one of 59 Chinese mobile applications that the government banned on Monday, accusing them of causing a threat to national security by stealing and transferring the data of Indian users to locations outside the country.

    TikTok is planning to approach the govt next week with its contention that it did not misuse the data, said one of the lawyers. Depending on the response received from the govt, it will initiate legal action, he added. One of the key questions discussed during the meeting with the law firm was whether the govt followed due procedure and gave enough time for TikTok to respond to the allegations, said the lawyer. Another was if the govt had conducted an investigation before imposing the ban.

    “An argument can be made on the grounds of principles of natural justice, as the company was not even given a hearing before the ban was imposed,” said the lawyer. “However, the allegations against them are very serious since they pertain to national security. In the past, courts have declined interfering against government action in such national security matters.”

    The second lawyer said the company and its lawyers were trying to figure out if an appeal could be made directly in the Supreme Court.

    The government used a provision in the Information Technology Act to initiate action against Tik Tok. The section (69A) allows the government to block online content or applications where it believes the content or the platform is a threat to national security.

    This is not the first instance of TikTok facing trouble with the Indian government. In July last year, the Cyber Laws and e-Security wing of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a notice to TikTok and Helo, another ByteDance-owned platform, asking them to respond to concerns that they were being used to commit anti-India and unlawful activities. The ministry at the time had sent the platforms a list of queries and warned that it would face action if the government did not receive the required responses.

    Salman Waris, managing partner at TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors, said companies including TikTok that had a local representative office in India could appeal and challenge the ban in courts. But, they must prove that they didn’t do anything illegal.

    “Most of these app providers would fall within the scope of provisions of Section 79 of the IT Act which obligates service providers to follow ‘all due care’ and ensure that their network is not used for any illegal acts. In the present case, companies like Tiktok will have to prove that they are fully complying with such provisions,” he said.

    However, all hope may not be lost for TikTok and other Chinese apps. In the past, when specific concerns in similar cases were brought to light, the restriction on access were removed.

    Last year, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court issued an interim order that resulted in a ban on the download of TikTok in India. The reason cited by the court was that the app had a harmful effect on children as it exposed them to “pornographic and inappropriate content”. The ban was lifted after TikTok added security provisions to its platform.

    According to a leading technology lawyer, the telecom department had banned some European video-sharing applications in the past. “However, it was found that the anti-Indian content was actually uploaded by Pakistanis and hence the government revoked the blanket ban and modified it to only the relevant anti-India pages,” said a lawyer.

    50 Comments on this Story

    khurshidnajmi bbbb27 days ago
    India is a democratic country. it believes in 'Rule Of Law.' Advocates who appear for or against the Tiktok would only be establishing this fact. They cannot be called traitors. where country's security is involved, the Goverment and the courts are the best judge. We should leave the decisin to them. However nothing comes in the way of people voluntarily not using the Apps, not even the court's verdict,
    Parshuram Kurhade29 days ago
    Nation security is important. Nation first and then Individual. Why Indian lawyers are interested to fight for China Apps ? I deleted all chinese Apps from my mobile as soon as China try to enter on our land. Jay Hind.
    Jayant Barve32 days ago
    So far the CEO of TikTok is showing senses. But in case he or any creature of this league thinks to sue India in the interest of China, shall be reduced to dust - note it.
    The Economic Times