A litmus test is carried out to check the acidity of basicity of a material. Similarly, in a test before a Court, the Statute acts as litmus and party on the wrong side is meant to suffer due consequences. The Supreme Court of India is hearing a public interest litigation filed in the year 2008 on presence of foetal sex determination advertisements on Search Engines like Yahoo, Bing etc. Recently, the Apex Court passed an Order in the PIL, mandating the Union Government to put up a Nodal Agency to handle the complaints in this regard.

Merits and demerits of the Order aside, India has had its own tryst with foreign internet companies which had first denied their applicability to Indian laws, and thereafter have conveniently managed to stay away from its clutches. In the present matter, the Supreme Court itself notes that Government did meet the websites in September, which as per Court's own Order are Google India Pvt. Ltd, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd., and Yahoo India Pvt. Ltd. Interestingly, in another PIL (KN Govindacharya v Union of India) before the Delhi High Court, Google India Pvt. Ltd, had stated on oath that it has no relations with operations of Google Inc. It seems rather queer that Google India is now undertaking to perform action on Google websites, over which it by its own admission had no control.

Onto the present case, the Solicitor General had painstakingly prepared a list of words which should be filtered from the search results. Even as the doctrine of auto-block as envisaged by the Apex Court comes into action, its effectiveness has been rendered useless by it's own Order. 

The Nodal Agency that has been ordered by the Supreme Court is an exercise in futility as the Indian law as it is mandates websites to have a Grievance Officer in relation to the content posted by them. A government body to censor the internet is not only an unpopular and unwise decision but also a method to drain away the taxpayers money through a mechanism which in reality should be paid for by search engines. 

The Petitioner has time and again submitted to the Court that Search Engines are still violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994. It is now time that Supreme Court rids itself of the baseless arguments on liability that Search Engines provide and passes the litmus rest of rule of law. The law clearly provides for a jail term of up to 3 years and a fine up to Rs. 10000. In this David v Goliath battle, India will have to emerge as a superpower and take on the colonial masters, or else be destined to remain a third world country.

Disclosure : The author was part of the research team that worked on the case of KN Govindcharya v Union of India, W.P. (C) 3672/2012 before the Delhi High Court. 

 

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