Indian government is trying its level best to control foreign websites, especially social media websites. However, it has achieved very insignificant success in this regard in India. In a desperate move to force such U.S. based companies/websites to comply with Indian laws, India invoked the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in criminal matters between the United States and India.
Under the Treaty, the Indian government has to send the requisite summons and court orders through governmental channels and ministries. A Delhi court on January 8 had issued fresh summonses against 11 US-based websites, which have been arrayed as an accused in the complaint filed by Vinay Rai and had directed the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) to get the process served upon them.
Complying with this direction of the Court, the MHA asked its U.S. counterpart to serve the summons upon the accused companies. However, the US Department of Justice refused to serve the same citing constitutional reasons.
U.S. is maintaining that it cannot fulfill the request as it implicates free speech principles that are protected as per the US Constitution. US authorities have also maintained that they will not be able to assist with the execution of the request without additional information being provided to them.
India has accused that these companies helped in promoting class enmity and undermining national integrity. The MHA placed before the Court the communication received from the US authorities in this matter.
The websites named in the complaint filed against them for allegedly committing offences like those of selling obscene materials to the youths and hatching criminal conspiracy include Facebook, Orkut, YouTube, Yahoo, Blogspot, Google and Microsoft.
The Centre had earlier told the court that there was sufficient material to proceed against the websites for the alleged offences. However, there are many loopholes in India’s version and stand. For instance, it is not clear why Vinay Rai did not contact the concerned websites?
At Perry4Law Organisation and Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB) we believe that cyber litigation against foreign websites in India would increase tremendously. Many foreign websites are not following the cyber law due diligence requirements of India. Further, they are also in clear violation of the Internet intermediary liability in India. We believe that U.S. companies must keep in mind the conflict of laws principle while doing business in India.
The real problem is that we have a weak and ineffective cyber law in India. We believe that cyber law of India must be repealed and strong and effective cyber law of India must be urgently formulated.
We have no dedicated social media laws in India. All that India is doing in the name of appropriate laws is formulating of certain guidelines that very few bother to read. Even the parliament clears such guidelines very casually without any debate and they become applicable laws in India. On similar lines, the guidelines for social media contents monitoring in India have been proposed to be made. But the truth is that we have no effective social networking laws in India as on date.
Obviously with so many defects, lacunas and deficiencies, India cannot expect the foreign websites to accept and implement Indian laws as required. Indian government must seriously think about this issue as the present attitude and mentality would bring any results at all.