The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Wednesday lifted the ban on video mobile application TikTok but with certain conditions. The ban was lifted by bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar 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, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, also made submissions on the steps taken to counter the apprehensions raised by the High Court following its April 3 ban.
On April 3, the High Court had passed an interim order asking the Central government to ban the downloading of the app in India. The court had also ordered the media to not telecast videos taken using the app. In its interim order, the court had also said that TikTok encourages pornography, making child users vulnerable to sexual predators.
During the hearing, Amicus Curiae Datar’s 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 argued before the court that there cannot be a system where something which is statutorily permissible becomes judicially impermissible. He told the HC 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 ban must remain in place because TikTok is a Chinese app and it can pose threat to India. The Court, however, said that it is only concerned about the protection of online users, particularly children, against cybercrime.
While lifting the ban, the court also said that TikTok will not upload any pornographic videos on its platform and any failure to follow its order will amount to contempt of court.
Reacting to HC's verdict, ByteDance said in a statement, "We are glad about this decision and we believe it is also greatly welcomed by our thriving community in India, who use TikTok as a platform to showcase their creativity. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better. While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against misuse of the platform has been recognised, the work is never “done” on our end. We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India."
The Madras HC heard the case on Wednesday after the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the High Court to pass an order on the question of interim relief for TikTok. In its order, the top court had said that if the Madras High Court fails to decide on the interim relief by April 24 (Wednesday), the interim order passed by HC on April 3 would stand vacated.
In its plea before the SC, ByteDance had said that the High Court had passed the order without hearing its argument and the company is suffering losses worth crores each day due to the ban.
Following the Madras HC order, the Centre had directed Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their respective platforms. It is to be noted that the app had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India before the ban came into effect.