Court issues summons to foreign social networking sites

Following a private complaint filed by a journalist Vinay Rai against various foreign networking sites, including Facebook, Google, YouTube and others for allegedly web-casting objectionable content, a Delhi court today issued summons to these sites and directed them to appear before it on 13th March

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday issued summons to various foreign-based social networking sites, including Facebook and Google, to face criminal charges for allegedly hosting objectionable contents and directed them to appear before it on 13th March, reports PTI.

It asked the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to get the summons served on these companies.

The court direction came after the counsel appearing for Facebook India said over 10 out of 21 companies named as accused in the case were foreign-based and that the court would have to begin the process to serve the summons on them.

The court was hearing a private complaint filed by a journalist Vinay Rai against these firms for allegedly web-casting objectionable contents. The summons was issued to the sites including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and YouTube.

“Let the process (to serve the summons) on (foreign- based) accused be sent through the MEA as per the process,” metropolitan magistrate (MM) Sudesh Kumar said.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on 13th March and directed the accused to appear in person before it on the next date.

“The accused are allowed exemption for today (Friday) only but are directed to appear in person on the next date of hearing without fail,” the magistrate said.

The court passed the order after advocate Shashi Tripathi, appearing for the complainant, told the magistrate that he would file a fresh list of the addresses of the various foreign-based sites for the serving of the summons through the MEA.

During the hearing, senior counsel Siddharth Lutra, representing Facebook India, sought adjournment for the day, saying the matter was pending before the Delhi High Court and the case file was also in the high court.

Mr Luthra said, “The matter is listed in the high court for 16th January... No order has been passed by the high court during Thursday’s proceedings. Since the record (case file) is not here, we are seeking adjournment for today (Friday) only”.

He said that one of the accused, who is chairman of the Facebook, is based in California in the US and the court would have to direct the MEA for serving summons on him.

The counsel for Google India Pvt Ltd also asked the court to adjourn the matter today. He said that summons issued to accused companies Orkut, YouTube and BlogSpot have been mistakenly served at their premises here.

The court, which had earlier directed the Centre to take “immediate appropriate steps” in this regard, was told by the counsel for the ministry of communication and information technology that they would file a report today itself.

The court had on 23rd December last issued summons to them against which some of the accused companies had moved the high court. The summons to the foreign firms had not been served.

The magistrate’s 23rd December order had come three days after another court in a civil case had restrained these sites including Facebook, Google and YouTube from webcasting any “anti-religious” or “anti-social” content promoting hatred or communal disharmony.

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