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Suspension lifted from the TikTok accounts of three influencers

The Division Bench of Hon’ble Acting Chief Justice Mr. B.P Dharmadhikari and Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.R Boarkar of the High Court of Bombay has lifted a nine-month long suspension of the TikTok accounts of influencers, Faisu, Hasnain and Shadan. The order comes as a relief for the influencers, after the Cyber Cell directed Tik Tok to suspend the influencers’ accounts, in July, 2019. The suspension order was pursuant to a controversial video posted by the influencers, which, according to the cell, was likely to cause disharmony in society.

The influencers’ TikTok accounts were blocked in July 2019 in light of an FIR that was filed with the Cyber Cell alleging that the video uploaded by the three influencers was likely to cause enmity between religious groups and prove prejudicial to maintaining peace and harmony in society. The influencers had, even prior to the FIR being lodged, immediately taken down the video in question as well as issued an apology on their Instagram accounts.

Subsequently, in August 2019, the three influencers were successfully granted Anticipatory Bail by an order of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court. However, their accounts continued to remain suspended till date causing a dent to their ability to earn a livelihood.

In a notable order, the Bombay High Court held that the cyber cell did not have the power to direct TikTok to block the influencers’ accounts under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Court agreed with the contention of the advocates acting for the influencers, that unlike other powers of the police under the criminal code, Section 91 does not grant the police the authority/power to block/suspend social media accounts. Accordingly, the impugned directions issued by the cyber cell to Bytedance/TikTok have been set aside and the influencers have been given liberty to operate their TikTok accounts.

The influencers were advised and represented by leading entertainment lawyer, Ms. Priyanka Khimani and her team along with Counsel Mr. Ranbir Singh.