Google and Facebook are questioning the intention of Government of India in becoming a party to a case against them on the issue of objectionable content posted by users on their websites.
In Delhi High Court, the Google India lawyer, NK Kaul said, “We are curious as to why the Union of India has become a party to a case between private parties?”
“It might be a case of malafide intention, which we leave to the judgement of the Honourable Court,” he said before Justice Suresh Cait in a packed courtroom.
The case is filed by Vinay Rai, editor of Akbari, against the websites, in a lower court over ‘objectionable’ images of Gods and Goddeses being posted online.
However, the Delhi High Court snubbed Google India and Facebook India on this issue. The court observed that the case could not be considered only as a private dispute between the complainant and the websites, which have moved the HC against the summoning order by a Delhi magisterial court.
“This cannot be treated as a private complaint. It is not a complaint where only the complainant is the victim and nobody else is affected. It is a complaint wherein the complainant has alleged that the websites published objectionable materials against some great national personalities and religious figures,” said Justice Suresh Kait.
The court was not of the opinion that the case could be treated as a private complaint and hence, the assistance of the Delhi Police and the Centre was sought.
“The trial court had also called for a report from the central government, pursuant to which the government submitted a report before the learned magistrate. In these circumstances, this court had decided to ask them to assist the court,” said Justice Kait.
Responding to the argument of Google’s lawyer, Naveen Sharma, senior counsel for the State of Delhi had said that the case has a bearing on crores of people of India and their religious sentiments. “The government has all rights to intervene. The government called the representatives of these Internet companies (Google, Facebook) in October 2011, and asked them to remove the content. But they did not comply,” Sharma added.
Sharma is appearing on behalf of Delhi Police, which is investigating the case.
Justice Suresh Cait has scheduled February 16, as the next date of hearing in the case, which is expected to have a bearing on websites thriving on user generated content in India, which has the third largest internet user base in the world.