“Blocking websites not an option for a democratic regime”

Google India, which along with 20 websites is facing criminal case for allegedly hosting objectionable material, on Monday told the Delhi High Court that blocking them was not an option as a democratic India does not have a “totalitarian” regime like China.

“The issue relates to a constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China,” advocate N.K. Kaul, appearing for Google India, told Justice Suresh Kait.

During the last hearing, Justice Kait had warned Google India and social networking site Facebook India that websites can be “blocked” like in China if they fail to devise a mechanism to check and remove objectionable material from their web pages.

Responding to the court's remark, Mr. Kaul referred to media reports on the issue saying “they [reports] suggest the existence of the right [freedom of speech].”

Initiating arguments, Mr. Kaul said internet is a global system which have billions of users that also included companies, private persons and the governments and their departments.

Seeking quashing of the summons issued against the firm by a lower court, he said Google India is neither a search engine nor a web hosting site and was a distinct legal entity from its U.S.-based holding company Google Inc, a search engine.

“No criminal liability can be fastened on Google India,” he said. Counsel for the website sought to distinguish between Google India and Google Inc.