New Delhi: The Supreme Court would like to see the government doing all it can to prevent products and services that flout the laws of India from being advertised on international websites that can be seen in India.
On Thursday, the court disapproved of a stand taken by the central government before it in a case seeking ban on advertisements and blocking of websites in violation of sex determination laws in the country.
“Most of these websites are hosted outside the country. Blocking of such sites advertising pre-natal sex determination may not be feasible due to their hosting outside the country," said a 16 August 2010 affidavit submitted to the court by the cyber laws formulation and enforcement division, department of information technology.
A public interest litigation filed in 2008 by Sabu Mathew George alleged that provisions of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, were being violated by search engines allowing advertisements related to sex determination techniques and products.
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit said that it found a “kind of helplessness" in the department’s stand, and “did not appreciate the manner in which the stand was expressed".
“In our considered opinion, an effort has to be made to see that nothing contrary to laws of this country are advertised or shown on these websites," the order noted. For achieving this purpose, the court asked solicitor general Ranjit Kumar and a “competent authority from the department of information and technology" to assist them. The court will hear the case next on 15 December.
Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corp. India Pvt. Ltd, however, contended in court that they were not in violation of the law as they only provide a “corridor". The order, while taking note of this, stated that “a legal solution has to be arrived at".
“The Google advertising program is managed by a set of policies which we develop based on several factors, including legal requirements and user experience. In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of prenatal gender determination or preconception sex selection. We take applicable legal requirements extremely seriously and take prompt and effective action in case a violation is reported to us," said a Google spokesperson in an email statement.
Yahoo India and Microsoft India did not respond to email queries.
The petitioner had challenged the actions of these three companies in light of Section 22 of the PCPNDT Act that prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex, said the petitioner’s lawyer Sanjay Parikh in a telephonic conversation. Further, they had asked for stopping or blocking of these websites, advertisements, as well as damages or compensation to be paid, he added.
“Every hour Google violates our laws, underestimates the dignity of our women and makes money," said petitioner George, who has been a member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee set up under the PCPNDT Act.
Vidhi Choudhary, Apoorva and Moulishree Srivastava contributed to this story.