Court puts off hearing on Google, Facebook pleas

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Thursday adjourned the hearing on petitions of Google India and Facebook India challenging a trial court’s order to prosecute them for allegedly hosting objectionable content.

“The matter is likely to be taken up Feb 2 or Feb 3,” said Justice Suresh Kait.

Google India and Facebook India earlier told the high court that it was impossible for them to control content with billions of people accessing the websites.

Petitioner Vinay Rai requested the trial court to remove objectionable contents from 21 websites. Among these, 12 websites are of foreign-based companies.

Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar summoned the accused companies to face trial for allegedly committing the offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code sections 292 (sale of obscene books and material and 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person).

The trial court observed that the material submitted by the complainant contained obscene pictures and derogatory articles pertaining to various Hindu deities, Prophet Mohammad and Jesus Christ.

Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Google India, during the last hearing in the high court said that the summons issued to social networking sites by a metropolitan magistrate showed complete lack of understanding about how the online system worked.

He said the issue was related to the freedom of speech.

“The issue relates to a constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression, and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China,” he said.

Arguing that Google India and Google Inc. were different entities, he said: “It has nothing to do with Google India directly or indirectly, I am not responsible for it.”

He submitted that the petitioner company had no control over websites where the objectionable material was posted.

“I am only a search engine, the offending materials of websites have nothing to do with me,” he said.

“Google India is neither a search engine nor a web hosting site and was a distinct legal entity from its US-based holding company Google Inc., a search engine,” he added.

Advocate Hariharan, appearing for complainant Vinay Rai, said that Google Inc. and Google India were the same.

He said they (Google India) said they were only concerned with marketing but their documents said that they carried on business of production and development of internet programme and software programme. Business of advertisement was only a small part.

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