Google’s online community web site Orkut has run into trouble for “spreading hatred against the country”.
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court, comprising Justice AP Deshpande and Justice RM Borde, issued notice to Google last week following a public interest litigation initiated by 22-year-old advocate Yugant R Marlapalle.
In his petition, Marlapalle, who is also an Orkut member, took exception to a community called ‘We hate India’, owned by someone who identifies himself as Miroslav Stankovic. The community features a picture of the Tricolour being burnt.
“My prayer is to direct Google to remove communities that spread hatred against India, the national flag, and all deities in the country,” Marlapalle told DNA. “My objection is to the offending communities, not Orkut.”
He has cited the provisions of section 75 of the Information Technology Act, which empowers authorities to file charges for offences or contravention committed outside India by any person irrespective of nationality.
A Google India spokeswoman told DNA that US courts have jurisdiction over Orkut. Besides, the web site has terms of service that mandate users to abide by rules prohibiting impersonation as well as vulgar and offensive comments or images. She was unable to say, however, if Google had received the court notice.
Orkut has been misused in India before. Last month, the Kolkata police caught spurned lovers who posted fake obscene profiles of girls they dated on the community site.
Only recently, Google was forced to hand over data of specific users to Brazilian authorities, following allegations that Orkut was being used for illegal activities, including child pornography.
Google has earlier raised eyebrows in India with its highly detailed maps of sensitive locations, available freely online.
Cyber law experts say the case only highlights the fact that India lacks laws to deal with hate speech.
In this case, one would have to invoke section 65 of the IT Act, terming Google a network service provider and making it liable for all third party issues.“We don’t have a national policy against hate speech,” cyber law expert Pavan Duggal said. “It would be interesting to know how the case develops over jurisdictions that cross national boundaries.” Union IT Secretary Jaswinder Singh said the government would respond after studying the web site and getting the court notice.