oppn parties Search Engines and Law in India

News Snippets

  • S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, says Pakistan should release and repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav immediately
  • Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala asks the Speaker to hold the trust vote latest by 1.30 pm today
  • The Government sends a list of 24 questions to mobile app company that runs video app TikTok seeking answers for anti-national and obscene content carried on the platform
  • Sarvana Bhawan founder P Rajagopal, serving a life term for murder, dies in a Chennai hospital
  • SC allows time till July 31 to the Ayodhya mediation panel
  • IT department attaches "benami" plot worth Rs 400cr in Noida. The plot allegedly belongs to BSP leader [email protected]@@s brother and his wife
  • Dawood [email protected]@@s nephew, Md. Rizwan Iqbal, was arrested from Mumbai airport as he was waiting to board a flight to Dubai
  • Trouble brews in Bihar JD(U)-BJP alliance as Bihar police asks special branch officers to keep tabs on RSS activities
  • Trust vote in Karnataka assembly today. With rebel MLAs deciding to stay away after the SC order, the Congress-JD(S) government is likely to fall as it does not have the numbers
  • Amit Shah says the government will identify and deport illegal immigrants from all parts of the country
  • Reports from Pakistan confirm that Hafiz Saeed has been arrested and sent to jail
  • After the SC order, Karnataka Speaker says he will go by the Constitution in deciding on the resignations of the 16 MLAs
  • Rebel MLAs say they will not attend the trust vote on Thursday
  • Supreme Court rules that rebel MLAs cannot be forced to attend the assembly and vote in the floor test
  • Both the Centre and the Assam government have sought re-verification of up to 20% of draft NRC data
International Court of Justice agrees with India, stays Kulbhushan Jadhav's execution. It asks Pakistan to allow consular access to the accused.
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Search Engines and Law in India

By Sunil Garodia

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.