Following the India against corruption movement last year, we had noticed an increase in situations that were demanding the curbing social media. The government, which till day has failed to understand the medium, was hell bound in regulating social media. During the same time, Vinay Rai came into limelight by filing cases against 21 social networking sites. Since most of the companies were operated from US, the Court raised summons on January 8, 2013 for 11 US based websites which include the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Orkut, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. The argument was that these websites were allegedly committing offences like those of selling obscene materials to the youth and hatching criminal conspiracy. However, the request of serving summons to the US companies has been rejected since it implicates free speech principles.
The Ministry Of Home Affairs, who had received this communication dated March 20, 2013 from the US Department of Justice informed the Delhi Court, last Friday. The communication that was received highlighted the fact that – “Pursuant to the treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters between the United States and India (the Treaty), we regret to inform you that we will not be able to execute this request for assistance… as the request implicates free speech principles that are protected by the US Constitution and are considered essential interests.”
Furthermore, the US authorities have also made a point that they will not be able to assist with the execution of the request without additional information being provided to them. However, the US authorities have also said that if there are other facts like information indicating a risk or threat to Indian lives, that have been pertinent to this case and have not been provided, then they are ready to help.
Rai had submitted the form in the court, as per the prescribed norms of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between USA and India. But US authorities have also rejected the norm of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in this case. The Center had earlier told the court that it had sufficient material to proceed against the websites for the alleged offences. However, there has been no update from the court or the Center for the next course of action in this case against social networking sites like Facebook, Google, etc.
We had seen a lot of similar cases floating in the air for some time now but we are yet to see some strong action on the claims that have been made by people like Vinay Rai.
Image courtesy: sires.house.gov