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Delhi HC to hear Google-Facebook petition

delhi Updated: Jan 16, 2012 12:32 IST
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The Delhi High Court will hear the petition filed by Google and Facebook challenging the trial court's order to prosecute them for objectionable content.

Google, Facebook and 19 other social networking sites faced legal action for offences of promoting enmity between classes after the government granted sanction to prosecute them on Friday.

On Thursday, while refusing to stay criminal proceedings against social networking site Facebook India and search engine Google India, the Delhi high court warned that they can be "blocked" like in China if they failed to remove objectionable material from their web pages.

"Like China, we will block all such websites," Justice Suresh Kait told the counsel for Facebook and Google India. The court asked them to devise a mechanism to keep a check on "offensive and objectionable" material and remove such content from their web pages.

Acting on a complaint by Vinay Rai, the trial court had earlier summoned the representatives of 21 social networking sites, including those of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Youtube. It had directed the centre to take "immediate appropriate steps" and file a report on January 13.

The complaint has been filed under Section 292 (sale of obscene books etc), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person etc) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

A civil judge had last month ordered the social networking sites to remove all "anti-religious" or "anti-social" contents by February 6, 2012.

On behalf of Google India, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi said it was humanly not possible to filter or monitor the postings of obscene, objectionable and defamatory material. "Billions of people across the globe, post their articles on the website. Yes, they may be defamatory, obscene but cannot be checked," he said.

Drawing a distinction between Google India and its US-based holding company Google Inc, Rohatgi said: "The US-based Google Inc is the service provider and not me (Google India) and hence, we are not liable for the action of my holding company. Moreover, it is criminal case where a vicarious liability cannot be fastened on a company which has no role, whatsoever, in the alleged offence."

Another senior advocate NK Kaul assured the court that if the complainant provided defamatory articles to Google India, then it could use "its good office" in getting them removed by its holding US-based firm.