The Delhi High Court today admitted Facebook Inc's appeal against its order holding that social media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube were bound to globally disable and block any offending content uploaded from within India.
The order under challenge was passed last week by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh in a suit by Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. against the social media platforms.
It was the plaintiff's grievance that various defamatory remarks based on a book titled Godman to Tycoon – the Untold Story of Baba Ramdev were being disseminated across the social media platforms. The plaintiff had thus sought a decree of permanent and mandatory injunction along with damages.
Subsequently, Justice Singh had passed an order directing the social media platforms to take down, remove, block, restrict/disable access to offending content uploaded from India, on a global basis as well.
When the appeal filed by Facebook was called out for hearing today, a Division Bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh instantly admitted it, and remarked,
"We'll have to hear it. No Court has decided it (the issues) yet."
The Division Bench, however, refused to stay Justice Singh's order.
It nonetheless recorded the statement made by the counsel for Ramdev and Patanjali that no contempt action would be initiated against Facebook for failing to implement the Single Judge Bench's order of global injuction.
"In view of the above statement..no contempt will be taken..."
With the consent of the parties, the Court listed the matter for arguments on December 7.
In its order passed on October 23, Justice Singh had held that if information or data was uploaded on a computer network from within India, the platforms would be bound to remove it and disable it from the entire computer network in terms of Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2002.
In its appeal, Facebook has argued that the Information Technology Act's extra territorial jurisdiction was limited to offences listed in the Act or its violations, and thus would not apply in the present case.
Facebook has further contended that Section 79 did not empower the Court to authorize a global injunction.
Referring to facts at hand, Facebook has stated that the Single Judge Bench failed to establish good and sufficient reasons to violate the principles of international comity and national sovereignty in a defamation case.
It is also pleaded that the order was void due to the absence of necessary parties i.e. the uploader of the allegedly offending content.
Facebook was represented by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal and a team from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas headed by Partner Tejas Karia.
Ramdev and Patanjali were represented by Senior Advocates Dayan Krishnan, Darpan Wadhwa and Advocate Satvik Varma along with a team from Athena Legal headed by Simranjeet Singh.