Judge Says We Don't Mind Emulating China-like Total Ban

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On Friday the 13th , the Indian Government authorized the trial court to prosecute 21 Social Networking websites, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo for allegations of promoting content that could cause “enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration.” The report submitted by the Department of IT to the Metropolitan Magistrate indicated that there was sufficient material evidence to proceed against the 21 websites and so, the court granted sanction under section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code to "proceed against the accused persons in the complaint." 

The report stated "The sanctioning authority has personally gone through the entire records and material produced before him and after considering and examining the same, he is satisfied that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons under section 153-A, 153-B and 295-A of the IPC." On December 23, the court had issued summons to the 21 social networking websites for alleged offences of “criminal conspiracy, sale of obscene books and sale of obscene objects to young persons,” which obviously is also within the reach of any who has access to an internet connection (from the many million Porn sites) at home or a hub, irrespective of the age, while the term “Criminal Conspiracy,” seems ambiguous since it remains to be seen if these 21 alleged erring websites,( in the line of Govt. India’s argument) tried to hatch a conspiracy against the State.  

The argument of the Department Of Information Technology was based on the logic that the “objectionable content” could "instigate enmity between different groups," and was considered as "deliberate malicious acts intended to outrage," in a land that has held itself as one inspite of the many bombings in the name of religion, faiths, languages, classifications and reservations according to a caste system that is authorized by the State. In the explanation of the complaint, the Department Of Information Technology told the trial court that the 21 social networking websites, which face prosecution, had been urged to remove objectionable content, but failed to do so. Acting on the "prima facie" evidence submitted by the IT Dept,, the Delhi court reasoned that though the accused companies were liable to be summoned for the afore mentioned clauses, the summons could not be executed without the prior sanction of central or state government or the district magistrate. 

As the prosecution for these offences could carry a maximum penalty of 3 to 5 years, which now has been sanctioned by the Indian Government, it remains to be seen what could be done to a medium that is only a platform for communicating thoughts, ideas and opinions. If the Indian think-tank  had enough brains and balls to beat the opinions of the 'Who' (instigators of violence and hatred) instead of the what (popular media that only carries public opinion) which ofcourse, can also be trampled upon by those with special interests in provoking trouble between sensitive communities. So why not find 'who' has such interests, instead of aspiring to become China, while we still call ourselves the worlds largest democracy. The Indian Government intends to serve summons to these 21 companies through the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs), which are beyond their Geo-judicial reach. 

Earlier, the IT Department is said to have held four meetings with the representatives of the accused Social Networking sites which, "were requested to take appropriate action in the (scope of) public interest, national harmony and integration," found no returns as logic differs over boundaries. The next hearing by the court has been scheduled for March 13 which  has directed the accused to appear in person on that day. Google and Facebook have appealed against the lower court's proceedings in the Delhi High Court, which will consider the matter on Monday. Google, Facebook and the other networks are facing legal proceedings in the US too, concerning issues of copyright violation and content moderation.  

In reply to the Court's proceedings, the Social Networks argue, "No human interference is possible, and moreover, it can't be feasible to check such incidents. Billions of people across the globe post their articles on the website," which met with, "You just have a stringent check. Otherwise, like China, we may pass orders banning all such web sites," by the Delhi High Court. A petition filed by a journalist Vinay Rai, referred to obscene depictions online of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammed, and various Hindu deities in these sites, set in motion this legal process . The magistrate said, "It appears from a bare perusal of the documents that the accused, in connivance (Meaning -Corrupt or guilty assent to wrongdoing, not involving actual participation in, but knowledge of, and failure to prevent or oppose it) with each other and other unknown persons, are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content," leveraging on the logic of media conscience, that is being read as, "you are either for ME or Against Me."

Would penalizing these popular Social Networking Sites stifle the spread of social hatred or religious fanaticism that India has witnessed time and again, when these Social Networks had done nothing to promote the individual opinions posted on their sites? While the truth remains, that at the very  lowest level, almost every public toilet, public transport buses and trains in India carry similar “obscene content” sketched on its walls by very expressive, anonymous artists, who engage in these kind of deviations while attending to the call of nature, or on long bus or train trips, would the Indian government, in an attempt to keep up its puritan pride, start with a ban of the public transport system and demolish all public toilets too? Heavens forbid!!!

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Google, Court Sanctions, Government of India, Department of IT, Vinay Rai

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