Issues directive to Centre to take immediate steps and file report

In yet another blow to 21 social networking sites including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Youtube, a Delhi court on Friday issued summons to them for facing trial for allegedly webcasting objectionable contents.

Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar took cognizance on a private criminal complaint and directed the Centre to take “immediate appropriate steps” and also file a report in the court by January 13.

The court's order came three days after another court in a civil case restrained these sites from webcasting any “anti-religious” or “anti-social” content promoting hatred or communal disharmony.

In the fresh case, the court said:

“It appears from a bare perusal of the documents that prima facie the accused, in connivance with each other and other unknown persons, are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content which also appears to the prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely to read, see or hear the same.

“It is also evident that such contents are continuously openly and freely available to everyone who is using the said network irrespective of their age and even the persons under the age of 18 years have full and uncensored access to such obscene contents.”

The Magistrate has summoned the accused companies to face trial for allegedly committing the offence punishable under Section 292 (sale of obscene books etc.), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young persons etc.) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

The Magistrate noted that the website material submitted by the complainant, Vinay Rai, a journalist, contained obscene pictures and derogatory articles pertaining to Islam, Christianity and Hindu gods and godesses.

The Magistrate said that as per the records placed before the court by the complainant, there were defamatory and obscene articles pertaining to various Indian political leaders which are being webcasted by these sites.

“The contents are certainly disrespectful to the religious sentiments and faith and seem to be intended to outrage the feelings of religious people whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian.

“There are certain degrading and obscene photographs of various political leaders belonging to different political parties and photographs pasted and the language used is also obscene, filthy and degrading,” the court said.

It said that prima facie the accused were also liable to be summoned for offences of promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration but due to an embargo under the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court could not summon them under these offences without prior sanction of the Central or State government or District Magistrate.

“I find prima facie that the accused persons are liable to be summoned for offences under section 153-A [promoting enmity between classes], 153-B [assertion prejudicial to national integration]and 295-A [insulting religion or religious belief of any class] IPC… However, owing to the embargo under Section 196 of the Cr.PC, which prohibits taking of cognizance under the said provisions except with the previous sanctions of the Central or State government or district magistrate, the accused persons are not summoned for the said offences.”

Mr. Rai, in his complaint filed through advocate Shashi Tripathi, said the contents hosted on these were “inflammatory” and sought to create enmity and communal violence among various religious communities.

He alleged that the contents on these sites were obscene and might lead to “creation of obscene books, pamphlets, papers which can easily be downloaded from these social networking websites affecting the minds of children and were harmful for social harmony and may lead to increase in crime against women also.”