Court drops Google India from objectionable content case

The court dropped the Indian unit but has retained parent Google in the suit

A court in Delhi Thursday dropped the Indian unit of Google from a civil suit regarding alleged objectionable content on its websites, but retained the parent company, the lawyer for the plaintiff said.

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and other Internet companies have been named in separate civil and criminal suits filed in Delhi courts over alleged objectionable religious and other content on their websites.

Microsoft and Yahoo were earlier dropped from both suits as there wasn't evidence in the complaint of objectionable content on their websites.

Google India is said to have stated before the civil court that it is not directly involved in the publishing and posting of content on Google's websites, and is a software development operation, Santosh Pandey, lawyer for plaintiff Mufti Ajiaz Arshad Qasmi said on Friday.

"We did not object to their removal from the suit," he added.

Pandey said the plaintiff would also not object to the removal of Facebook India on similar grounds.

After the removal of the Indian operations of Orkut, YouTube, and Google, and some other companies, the number of companies in the suit has now been reduced to six, among which are Google and its entities YouTube and Orkut, and Facebook in the U.S., Pandey said.

Google declined to comment.

India has been concerned about certain political and religious content on websites, and the country's Minister for Communications, Kapil Sibal, said in December that Internet companies should evolve a mechanism to remove objectionable content immediately after it is put up.

The civil and criminal cases as they unfold are likely to address critical issues such as whether the intermediary can be held responsible for content posted by a third-party, and if it is possible to filter the large volume of data posted on Internet social networking, video sharing, and other sites.

The government allowed the court to prosecute the Internet companies under various Indian laws in the criminal case. The criminal suit was filed against the Internet companies in a separate court in Delhi, by newspaper editor Vinay Rai. Google and some others appealed the criminal court's decision before the Delhi High Court. In the civil court, Google agreed to pull down the content cited as objectionable.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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