19 other sites too were ‘hosting offensive content’

Granting sanction to prosecute 21 social networking websites, including Facebook and Google, the Union government on Friday said there was sufficient material to proceed against them for offences of promoting enmity between different groups of people.

They are “doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony” and hosting content that is “provocative, assertive and propagates prejudicial to national integration (sic),” it said.

The Department of Information Technology placed its report before a Delhi court, after which the court directed the Ministry of External Affairs to get summons served on over 10 companies that are based abroad, after summons issued on December 23 remained unserved.

The court, on that date, observed that offences punishable under Sections 292 (sale of obscene books, etc.), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person, etc.) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC could be made out against the accused.

It also directed the Union government to take appropriate steps and file a report after it received a complaint that these websites were hosting content considered objectionable.

“The sanctioning authority has personally gone through the entire records and materials produced before him and, after considering and examining the same, he is satisfied that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons under various Sections.

These are Sections 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups… on grounds of religion, race…and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), and 295-A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code,” the DIT report placed before Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar said.

The matter has been listed for hearing on March 13.