New Delhi, Jan 13: The Centre today told a Delhi court that there is sufficient material to proceed against 21 social networking sites, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, for offences of promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration.
"The sanctioning authority has personally gone through the entire records and materials produced before him and after considering and examining the same, he is satisfied that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons under section 153-A, 153-B and 295-A of the IPC," the Centre said in its report placed before Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar.
The two-page report was placed after the court directed Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to get the summons served on over ten foreign-based companies. The summons were issued on December 23 last but they remained unserved.
The court had on December 23 issued summons to 21 social networking websites for allegedly committing offences of criminal conspiracy, sale of obscene books and sale of obscene objects to young persons.
It had said prima facie the accused companies were liable to be summoned for promoting enmity between classes, causing prejudice to national integration and insulting religion or religious belief of any class, but it could not summon them without having prior sanction of central or state government or the district magistrate.
The Department of Information Technology, in its report, granted sanction to proceed against the 21 companies for allegedly promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration.
The report said, "The documents and contents therein are in the nature to instigate enmity between different groups on the ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony...."
It said the contents were provocative and were prejudicial to national integration.
The report said in view of the documents and confirmation of availability of such contents on the website/ search engines as reported by Station House Officer of Tughlak Road police station, the sanctioning authority, Government of India, was satisfied that such content was violative of the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.
It said after due application of "judicious mind", it was found appropriate to grant sanction under section 196 of CrPC to proceed against the accused persons in the aforesaid complaint keeping in view national harmony, integration and national interest.
The report said that they had held four meetings with the representatives of social networking sites and search engines Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft.
"The availability of objectionable content on their websites and their search results through the search engine was brought to their knowledge. The objectionable and defamatory content was also shown to them and they were requested to take appropriate action in the public interest, national harmony and integration....," it said.
The report said even in August last year, the availability of similar content on such websites was brought to the notice of the Department of Information Technology.
Meanwhile, the court today issued directions to the MEA after the counsel appearing for Facebook India said over ten out of the 21 companies were foreign based and the court would have to issue process to serve the summons to them.
The magistrate directed the MEA to get the summons served saying, "Let the process (to serve the summons) to (foreign based) accused be sent through MEA as per the process."
The court has now listed the matter for further hearing on March 13 and has directed the accused to appear in person on the next date.
"The accused are allowed exemption for today only but are directed to appear in person on the next date of hearing without fail," the magistrate said.
The court's order came after advocate Shashi Tripathi, appearing for complainant Vinay Rai, said he would file a fresh list of addresses of these foreign-based sites in the court.
During the hearing, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing Facebook India, sought adjournment for the day saying the matter is pending before the Delhi High Court and the case file is also in the High Court.
He said that one of the accused, who is chairman of the Facebook, is based in California in USA and the court will 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.
Some of the accused companies had also moved the High Court against the summons issued to them.
The magistrate's December 23 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.
Vinay Rai, a journalist, had filed a CD purportedly containing material downloaded from these websites which included obscene pictures and derogatory articles pertaining to Prophet Mohammad, Jesus Christ and various Hindu gods and goddesses.
The magistrate had then said that as per the records placed before the court by the complainant, there are defamatory and obscene articles pertaining to various Indian political leaders which are being webcasted by these sites.
"The contents are certainly disrespectful to the religious sentiments and faith and seem to be intended to outrage the feelings of religious people whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
"There are certain degrading and obscene photographs of various political leaders belonging to different political parties and photographs pasted and the language used is also obscene, filthy and degrading," the court said.