Visakha Industries, in its complaint before a civil court in Secunderabad, has alleged that the network service provider had hosted some defamatory articles aimed at it on its website.
Visakha had sent a legal notice to Google India in December 2008 alleging that articles authored by Delhi-based Gopal Krishna (coordinator of Ban Asbestos India) and hosted by the website violated its rights and were defamatory as they were aimed at a single manufacturer.
Subsequently, Visakha filed a case in the civil court, which summoned the Google India officials. However, on appeal, the high court stayed the order.
An apex court bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam, while seeking a reply from Visakha, also stayed the proceedings pending before the additional chief metropolitan magistrate at Secunderabad.
Senior counsel KK Venugopal argued that the service was not provided by Google India but by its parent company Google Inc and the entire complaint was bereft of any averment of its involvement in the defamation case.
Challenging the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s judgement that dismissed its plea, Google India said the high court grossly erred in concluding that the service provider did not initiate any action to expeditiously remove or disable access to the alleged defamatory material after the asbestos firm brought it to its notice.
Claiming that Google India doesn’t have any control over the website www.groups.google.com , counsel Mahesh Agarwal argued that the petitioner cannot be termed as ‘intermediary’ as per the Information Technology Act, 2000. Besides, the Indian arm has no control over the activities of its parent company and is not even providing hosting services on its website or any other platform.
“The high court failed to appreciate that to constitute an offence of defamation under the IPC only in the event of a publication, would the publisher be liable… The service provider merely provides a platform for third parties to post their contents and does not undertake the activity of publishing such content,” the search engine giant's petition stated.
According to the largest search engine, it is trite law that actions of intermediaries such as Google Inc in providing a platform to end users to upload content does not amount to publication in law and consequently, the question of holding such intermediaries or their employees liable for defamation would not arise.
Alleging that such complaint was malafide, it further added that it is the third party user who creates and disseminates information/content by posting such content.
“Consequently, the service provider is not the author and publisher of the allegedly defamatory content and neither Google Inc nor Google India can be termed as publishers of such content,” Agarwal stated.