The Bombay high court on Friday directed YouTube and Google to remove videos of a civil hearing that was portrayed as a “sting operation” on their online platforms. According to the petitioners, in the video, scandalous comments were also made on the judge hearing the case.
The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anjua Prabhudessai also restrained the companies from making any such offending material available through their platforms. It directed the central government to ensure the order is complied with.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by Bombay Bar Association and the Advocates Association of Western India. The bar associations had filed a petition seeking action for criminal contempt against 14 people, some of whom purportedly recorded the proceedings of a civil matter before a single judge bench of the high court and uploaded it on online content sharing sites, by portraying it as a “sting operation.”
According to the bar associations, the 38-minute video also made scandalous and contemptuous comments about the high court judge. Senior advocate Rafiq Dada, who represented the Bombay Bar Association, stated that the advocate, Nilesh Ojha, who had appeared for one of the parties in the video had also given an interview on camera which — along with the anchor Rishi Pandit’s remarks — was also “grossly contemptuous”.
Dada claimed that a Gopal Shete had recorded the court proceedings on camera and uploaded it on YouTube. He informed the bench that though the petitioner associations had sought to prosecute 14 persons and entities for criminal contempt of court, the advocate general has granted consent to file petition against 10 of them, including advocate Ojha, Shete, Pandit and seven others.
After hearing the senior advocate and examining contents of the contempt petition, the bench issued contempt notices to Shete, Pandit and two others. It also issued notices to YouTube, Google Inc., Google India and Alphabet Inc. calling upon them to show why proceedings for criminal contempt of court should not be initiated against them.
The directive came after advocate Dada urged the court to initiate suo-motu contempt proceedings against the companies, as the advocate general has not granted permission to file complaints for criminal contempt against them.
The court has now posted the case for further hearing on Wednesday.