Delhi High Court calls for an end to videos on Aaradhya Bachchan

The High Court also came down heavily on YouTube for not taking proactive action on the issue

Updated - April 21, 2023 01:39 am IST

Published - April 20, 2023 12:07 pm IST - New Delhi

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her daughter Aaradhya Bachchan. File

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her daughter Aaradhya Bachchan. File | Photo Credit: AFP

The Delhi High Court on April 20 ordered several websites to immediately stop disseminating or publishing certain objectionable videos of Aaradhya Bachchan, daughter of actors Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, which were circulating fake news about the 11-year-old’s health.

Justice C. Hari Shankar stressed that “Every child is entitled to be treated with honour and respect whether the child is of celebrity or child of a commoner. Dissemination of misleading information regarding the mental and physical health of a child is completely intolerable.”

In the suit filed by Ms Aaradhya, through her father, it was stated that though she is a “healthy school-going child”, certain miscreants clearly for the sake of publicity have been circulating videos on Youtube stating that she was “critically ill”. One of the videos even claimed that she was no more, the suit stated.

“Apparently morphed pictures were also used in the videos...Though this is not the first time that such misleading information is being circulated with respect to celebrities, where the information relates to a child of tender years, it reflects a morbid perversity on the part of the persons circulating such information, with complete apathy to the child in question,” Justice Shankar observed.

The High Court issued summons to the websites and YouTube channels which were disseminating content relating to the granddaughter of Amitabh Bachchan.

Google, which owns YouTube, submitted that has no control over the contents of videos that are posted on the YouTube platform as the videos are not screened by the company before they are posted.

Google said though YouTube has a “zero tolerance” policy in certain exceptional cases such as child pornography, for which there is a special mechanism in place, in case of misinformation, the only remedial mechanism available is for the person who may object to the information posted on the platform to bring it to the notice of Google.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Aaradhya, drew the attention of the High Court to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to argue that the intermediaries such as YouTube, to be in conformity with rules, is required to make “reasonable efforts”.

Mr. Krishan said the intermediaries’ role can longer be that of a tacit onlooker of the information which is uploaded but they are required to be more proactive in nature.

The High Court said it will examine on the next date the plea of Mr. Krishnan to streamline the process of taking down objectionable contents from YouTube “without any lapse of time”.

In the meantime, the High Court directed Google to set out its policy in detail to ensure that it is in compliance with the IT Rules 2021. “The court may have to examine whether the existing policy of Google is sufficient to ensure compliance with amended IT Rules and its very character as an intermediary. Google is dutybound in law to ensure strict compliance with the entire statutory regime,” the High Court said.

To prevent further prejudice to Ms. Aaradhya, the High Court ordered Google to reveal the identity, contact details, email, and all other information available of the websites and YouTube channels to the Bachchans.

It also directed Google to immediately take steps to deactivate the URLs contained in the plea. On the Bachchans bringing to the notice of Google any other video clip uploaded on its platform dealing with the physical health and wellbeing of Ms. Aaradhya, Google will take immediate steps to take those down, the High Court added.

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