Search engines such as Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft were Wednesday restrained by the Supreme Court from flashing advertisements promoting sex determination of a foetus.
A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra took strong exception that the three engines continued to carry advertisements on their web pages even though pre-natal sex determination is illegal in India.
“If any advertisement existed on any search engine, these should be withdrawn forthwith,” the bench ordered when the lawyers for the three companies assured the court there were no advertisements.
This claim was refuted by the petitioner who has sought a direction to the search engines to block websites giving such information.
“As an interim measure, it is directed, the respondents, namely, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft shall not advertise or sponsor any advertisement which would violate Section 22 of the PC-PNDT Act, 1994,” the bench said.
It even directed the companies to upload the court order on their policy and the terms of service pages.
The bench fixed February 11 to decide whether the search engines should block web pages to ensure no information regarding sex-determination is available. The Centre’s counsel, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar argued that the search engines could filter the information.
Even the government was willing to help provided the search engines provided a list of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of every such web page.
The search engines’ counsel claimed it wasn’t possible to censor information on the web.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for Google, argued prohibition on advertisement was fine but restriction on debates, discussions and research papers on the subject amount to curtailment of freedom of speech.