December 11, 2019 4:33:38 am
The Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that internet intermediaries like Google India could not avail protection from trial if they published defamatory content prior to the 2009 amendment to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act.
A two-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph held that Google India must also face trial for publishing such defamatory content against companies or complainants.
The judgment relates to a case filed by an asbestos manufacturing company Visaka Industries against a group called Ban Asbestos Network India, and certain other individuals who had allegedly published defamatory articles about the company.
Visaka had then also impleaded Google India as a party, alleging that it had failed to take down the posts despite repeated reminders.
The company had in its pleadings also said that though there were other makers of asbestos, the individuals who were posting the articles had “singled out (the company) and were “trying to bring down the image of the plaintiffs company by running hate campaign against them”.
In its defence, Google India had told the courts that as the Google groups’ website platform was developed outside India, no employee had any access or ability to remove or delete the content when once it is posted on the Google Groups website. The apex court, however, refused to accept this argument.
“We reject the contention of the appellant (Google) that the High Court should have acted on the Google LLC conditions and found that the appellant is not the intermediary. We hold that this is a matter for trial,” the two-judge apex court Bench said.
Google India had also said that it could not take down any content uploaded across its websites simply because a company or a party was aggrieved by it, as the same was covered by freedom of speech and expression. The global information technology giant had also said that unless there was a court order on the same, removing any such content would harm its businesses.
Google India had also contended that as its parent company was under the laws of the US, it was not obliged or required to remove any allegedly defamatory content without the court order. These arguments, were, however, rejected by the apex court bench.
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