The Delhi high court on Wednesday directed Facebook and Google to remove alleged derogatory material related to Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sasikala Pushpa who claimed that her image was being tarnished by purported morphed photos and videos with a man on social media.
Sasikala Pushpa joining the BJP in the presence of party general-secretary P Muralidhar Rao in New Delhi on February 2, 2020
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh also stayed the June 2 judgment of a single judge relating to the direction to Sasikala to pay a cost of Rs 2 lakh each to Facebook Inc as well as Google LLC and YouTube LLC.
The division bench, which was hearing the plea through video conferencing, issued notice on the appeal filed by Sasikala, former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, challenging the June 2 judgment and directed the social media platforms to file their responses to it.
It listed the matter for September 3 before the registrar for completion of pleadings in the matter.
“In the meantime, respondents (Facebook, Google and YouTube) are directed to remove forthwith the offending material…,” the high court said in its interim order.
Facebook, Google and YouTube contended before the bench that they are only intermediaries and do not upload any content on their platforms and that they also do not judge the uploaded material.
Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Arun Kathpalia, representing Facebook and Google respectively, said they will comply with the high court’s order and will immediately remove the content.
Sasikala, through advocate Richa Kapoor, has challenged the single judge’s verdict and urged the division bench to direct the social media platforms to remove the objectionable photographs and also to set aside the cost imposed on her.
Sasikala’s counsel has also provided the list of URLs which were required to be removed from the platforms.
Google’s counsel has said that he was protesting the practice of impleading only intermediaries in a suit and not the one who has uploaded the content on the Internet.
“Intermediaries have no interest in defending the content. You cannot sue us without impleading the party who has uploaded the content,” he argued.
The single judge, in the June 2 verdict, had observed that people have a right to know with whom their electoral representative is meeting behind closed doors and hobnobbing with.
It had said the politician was not entitled to any relief against the social media giants to remove the photographs and to block access to them and directed her to equally pay the cost.
Sasikala, who was an expelled AIADMK member of the Rajya Sabha at the time of filing of suit in 2016, joined the BJP in February this year.
In an interim order in September 2018, the high court had restrained Facebook, Google and YouTube from publishing or showing any alleged derogatory photographs of her after she claimed that some unknown persons were threatening to tarnish her image by uploading her morphed photos and videos.
She had sought an injunction order against the social media platforms on the ground that they have not made any attempt to verify the authenticity of the photographs before uploading it.