Monday, February 14, 2022

Offensive FB Post About Goddess Saraswati: Calcutta HC Directs Sharing Of URL Details With Facebook India To Authorise Removal, Orders Impleadment Of Alleged Offender

The Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the petitioner to immediately share the URL details of an alleged offensive post about Goddess Saraswati with the authorities of Facebook India in order to authorise the removal of such an offensive post. The Court also directed the petitioner to take appropriate steps to implead the alleged offender as a party in the instant proceedings.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajrashi Bharadwaj was adjudicating upon a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking directions for the removal of an offensive Facebook post about Goddess Saraswati. The alleged offender had purportedly posted that worship of Goddess Saraswati must be discouraged in schools as the Goddess is portrayed to have an 'illicit relationship' with her father.

Advocate General S.N Mookherjee appearing for the State government apprised the Bench that the alleged Facebook post was indeed an offensive post about Goddess Saraswati and must be removed. He also informed the Bench that the State government had written a letter to the authorities of Facebook India to identify the account details of the alleged user.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Facebook India submitted before the Court that since the petitioner has not disclosed the URL details of the alleged offensive post, it is difficult to trace such a post and find out whether such an offensive post has been taken down or not. He further submitted that his client would provide basic subscriber information relating to the alleged offender with the State government as well as the petitioner.

The senior counsel further apprised the Bench that although the name of the alleged offender had been mentioned in the petition, however the alleged offender had not been imploded as a party. Accordingly, he prayed for directions to implead the alleged offender as a party to the present proceedings.

Senior advocate Rohatgi further submitted that the settled legal position pursuant to the Supreme Court decision in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India is that in such circumstances the Court has to give a direction for removal of such offensive Facebook posts. Since Facebook is an intermediary platform, it cannot on its own decision whether a post is immoral or not, the senior counsel stated further.

"We don't contest if Court orders its removal", the senior counsel remarked further in relation to allegedly offensive Facebook posts.

The counsel for the petitioner remarked before the Bench, "Facebook is not acting as an is missing loopholes in Indian laws to spread hate speech".

Pursuant to the submissions of the concerned parties, the Bench observed that if the concerned Facebook post still exists then it is certainly an offensive post and is thus required to be delated.

"Learned counsel for the petitioner is directed to disclose URL To Respondent 1 (Facebook India) without any delay and also take appropriate steps to implead the person who made such a post", the Bench directed further.

The petitioner was also ordered to file English translations of the documents annexed with the petition. The Court also took on record the supplementary affidavit filed by the petitioner and further directed the petitioner to serve a copy of such a supplementary affidavit to the respondents.

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