China's approach can't be replicated in India: Google

Arun S New Delhi | Updated on November 15, 2017

Google India on Monday told the Delhi High Court the case against them and 20 other net firms was one affecting ‘freedom of speech’ and, therefore, in a democracy like India, the matter should not be handled like it is done in China or ‘totalitarian’ regimes.

A Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate court had recently issued summons to 21 websites, including Google, on a complaint against them for allegedly allowing objectionable contents on their websites.

Objecting to the “casual manner” in which summons was issued in the case, advocate Mr N K Kaul, representing Google India, told Justice Mr Suresh Kait that “it is a matter which required detailed examination. It affects the freedom of speech and the way websites operate.”

Mr Kaul said the summons issued to the companies “reflect a complete lack of understanding as to how the system (internet) functions”, he said.

“In India, we have the (right to) freedom of speech and expression (granted by Constitution) and we have the courage to say that. Suppressing it is not possible. That is what distinguishes us from China or any other totalitarian regime,” Mr Kaul said.

During the last hearing, Justice Mr Kait had cautioned the websites that they can be “blocked” like in China if they do not check and remove ‘objectionable’ content from their sites.

Agreeing that the concerned content was “terrible”, Mr Kaul, however, said there are “practical difficulties” in removing them.

Referring to the process of ‘online search’, Mr Kaul said a search for a word ‘virgin’ would give 82.3 crore results in just 0.33 seconds and if the word were to be blocked by deeming it as ‘objectionable’, it would deny the users the required the information relating to ‘Virgin Airlines’ or ‘virgin areas for inventions’.

He said many websites may have ‘good’ as well as ‘bad’ content, adding that a whole new set of problems will occur if websites are blocked totally.

Also, he said Google India is neither a web hosting site nor a search engine and was different from its US-based parent company Google Inc, which is the service provider. Therefore, “no criminal liability can be fastened on Google India,” he said.

Mr Kaul said it was not right to hold even Google Inc accountable for what is done by third parties who create and publish ‘objectionable’ content.

“Search engines like Google Inc does not and cannot control the websites to which users are transported to by them. The contents belong to the websites to which the users have visited and not of the search engines,” he said.

Mr Kaul also pointed out that the persons who created the contents were not been made parties, and added that, the case seeks “to prosecute the websites which have done a great service to the world.”

However, the complainant Mr Vinay Rai opposed Google India’s contentions saying, the objectives of Google India and its parent company Google Inc are the same. Besides, the shareholding pattern shows Google India is fully owned and controlled by Google Inc, the counsel for Rai said.

Published on January 16, 2012

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