Delhi court stays proceedings against 13 US websites

The 13 websites against whom proceedings have been stayed include Facebook, Orkut, YouTube, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

New Delhi: Citing denial of assistance from US authorities, a Delhi court today said the proceedings against 13 websites, including Facebook and Google, are "stayed" in a complaint case which accused them of promoting class enmity and undermining national integrity.

The court, however, ordered that recording of "pre-charge evidence" against other accused websites, including Facebook India and Google India (P) Ltd, would commence from September 28.

"The proceedings qua accused number (13 accused websites) ....Have already been stayed due to denial of assistance by the US department of Justice, Government of USA," Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja said.

The 13 websites against whom proceedings have been stayed include Facebook, Orkut, YouTube, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier told the court that the US authorities are unable to "execute" the request for assistance in serving summons to these US-based websites.

During the day`s hearing, the court said that it would commence the recording of pre-charge evidence in the case from September 28.

"All the accused were summoned by the order of the predecessor court for offences punishable under sections 292 (sale, etc., of obscene books), 293 (sale, etc., of obscene objects to young persons), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, 1860.

"Since the offence under section 293 of IPC is punishable with maximum imprisonment of three years, the present case shall be tried as a warrant case otherwise than police report. Put up for recording of pre-charge evidence on September 28, 2013," the court said.

The Home Ministry had earlier told the court that they have received a communication dated March 20, 2013 from the US Department of Justice according to which they cannot execute the request as it "implicates free speech principles" which are protected as per the US Constitution.

The court had on January 8 issued fresh summonses against these US-based websites, which have been arrayed as an accused in the complaint filed by Vinay Rai and had directed the MHA to get the process served upon them.

The US authorities had informed the MHA that they will not be able to assist with the execution of the request without additional information being provided to them.

Earlier, advocate S P M Tripathi, who appeared for Rai, had submitted in the court the forms, required to be filled up as per the prescribed norms of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the USA and India.

The websites named in the complaint filed against them for allegedly committing offences like those of selling obscene materials to the youth and hatching criminal conspiracy include Facebook, Orkut, YouTube, Yahoo, Blogspot, Google and Microsoft.

The Centre had earlier told the court that there was sufficient material to proceed against the websites for the alleged offences.

The court had on December 23, 2011 issued summonses to 21 social networking websites on the complaint.