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News Snippets

  • Centre sanctions Rs 15000cr for Covid19 emergency response, part of it immediately and the rest over a period of four years in mission mode
  • RBI says Covid-19 has "drastically altered" the growth outlook in India
  • Third coronavirus death in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai
  • Odisha becomes the first state to extend the lockdown until April 30. Schools and colleges in the state to remain closed until June 17th
  • The Supreme Court orders all coronavirus testing, including by private labs, to be done for free, says will look into the matter of reimbursement for private players at a later date
  • Former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Akhtar proposes an Indo-Pak ODI series to raise funds for fighting coronavirus
  • Maharashtra government says many Tablighi Jamaat members who attended the Markaz and returned have gone into hiding
  • West Bengal government identifies hotspots in Kolkata and the rest of the state, inclined to extend the lockdown in those places only
  • Prime Minister Modi holds a video conference with floor leaders of opposition parties, hints at extending the lockdown
  • UP seals hotspots and makes masks mandatory
  • Masks made compulsory in Mumbai, violators will be arrested
  • ICMR says an infected person can infect 406 people in 30 days without social distancing and lockdown
  • Stock markets make a smart recovery. Sensex up by record 2476 points on global cues
  • Schools, colleges and shopping malls likely to remain closed for a further period of one month, says empowered group of ministers
  • PM Modi tells BJP workers that India is in for a long battle against the coronavirus and there is no scope to feel tired or defeated
Total Covid-19 cases rise to 5734 on Thursday and the death toll stands at 166, says the health ministry in its daily briefing
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Search Engines and Law in India

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2016-07-08 19:50:00

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Can internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing (owned by Microsoft) violate or cause Indian laws to be violated by taking a plea that they are just intermediaries and have no control over the content of websites accessed by Indian citizens through keyword search on their search engines? Obviously, the Supreme Court does not think so. Last year, it had ordered search engines to desist from letting sex determination advertisements appear on any links accessed by Indian citizens by making a keyword search on their websites. Since they had not complied with that order, the court has rapped them recently in a hearing on a PIL and asked the union government to submit a report after consulting experts.

The lawyers appearing for the search engines argued that they were not violating any Indian law. But section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 that bans such advertising in India, is quite comprehensive and includes all possible types of advertising through every conceivable means. It says no person or organization can issue or even cause any advertisement to be issued on the subject. While the search engines are not issuing such ads, they are causing access to these ads as the links appearing on their search pages lead one to websites that blatantly advertise sex detection of the foetus.

Although there is no easy solution to this, the court wants the government to consult experts and file a report by 25th July. A complete ban on keyword search related to sex determination tests is neither advisable nor practical. There are a million combinations of words that can be used to get desired results. Since the search engines have a set mechanism whereby results are published, and since they do not have any control over content of third party websites, it will not be possible for them to filter results by which website carries ads and which does not. Since a search for sex determination test cannot always be for clinics conducting such tests and it can be for other information and study purpose, a blanket ban will be unethical and deprive genuine scholars, researchers and journalists access to the huge database on the internet.

The government has a huge task at hand. It must constitute a committee of cyber experts and sit with similar experts from search engines to find out a way to stop the violation of the law. The mechanism arrived at must satisfy the apex court. But the court has given just two weeks for the job and one feels it is too complex an issue for a solution to be found within that deadline.