The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Madras High Court to decide on April 24 a plea of Chinese social media app TikTok seeking interim relief of vacating its earlier ban order. The top court said if the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court does not decide the plea for interim relief on Wednesday, when the matter is listed, then its ban order will stand vacated.
The high court had on April 3 directed the Centre to ban mobile application “TikTok” as it voiced concern over “pornographic and inappropriate content” being made available through such apps. The apex court had refused to stay the Madras High Court order.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna on Monday said that Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok app, can raise its grievances on April 24 before the High Court. At the outset, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for ByteDance said that they were losing over Rs 4.5 crore a day and safety features of over two million subscribers are at risk.
He said that the order of the Madurai bench of the high court should have stayed as it was an ex-parte order and they were not heard at all on the issue. To this, the bench asked Singhvi as to when is the matter coming up for hearing before the high court.
Singhvi replied that the plea for interim relief is coming up for hearing on April 24 and the high court has appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as amicus curiae to assist it in the matter. The bench said that the high court has to decide the plea for interim relief of vacating the ban order on April 24 and if it does not decide the plea, then the ban order would stand vacated.
The bench then disposed of the plea. The company had earlier told the top court that there were over billion downloads of the mobile app and ex-parte orders were passed by the high court. The high court had on April 3 directed the media not to telecast video clips made with TikTok. The app allows the users to create short videos and then share them.
It had asked the government if it would enact a statute on the line of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US. The high court’s interim order came on a public interest litigation (PIL) which alleged the app encouraged paedophiles and the content “degraded culture and encouraged pornography”.
Even after the havoc caused by Blue whale online game, which reportedly led to suicides by several people, officials have not learnt that they should be alert to these types of problems, the high court said. Only when officials and policy makers were able to act on problems of society, decision could be taken to prevent these kind of apps, it had said. The court had said it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile applications.