Obscene YouTube Ads Distracted, Failed In Exams, Says Petitioner Seeking Compensation; Supreme Court Dismisses Plea With Costs
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court came down heavily on a petitioner who sought damages of Rs 75 lakhs from Google India because he was allegedly distracted by the sexual content in advertisements on the Google-owned streaming platform, YouTube, and consequently, unable to pass a Madhya Pradesh police recruitment examination. Invoking Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which outlines the reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression, the petitioner also sought a blanket ban on nudity on social media platforms.
The Bench, comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka, expressed its shock and disbelief and said, "This is one of the most atrocious petitions ever filed under Article 32." While pronouncing the order, Justice Kaul also categorically stated, "If you do not like an advertisement, do not watch it."
Sardonically, Justice Kaul asked the petitioner, "Kis cheez ki damages chahiye? Aap internet dekhte ho isiliye, ya internet dekhne ke waaje se exam mein pass nahi ho paaye, isiliye? (What for do you need damages? Because you use the internet, or since you failed the exam because you use the internet?)"
"Advertisement mein sexual content thha, isiliye aapki attention divert ho gayi, isiliye court mein aake aap bol rahe ho damages de do. [You have come to demand for damages because sexual content in advertisements apparently diverted your attention]," Justice Kaul observed, utterly exasperated. You will now have to pay damages to the court because of your conduct, the judge said. While dismissing the petition and imposing an exemplary cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner, Justice Kaul also remarked, "These kinds of petitions are utter wastage of judicial time."
"Nyayadhish mahodaay, mujhe maaf kar dijiye. Mere mata pita mazdoori karte hain. [Your Lordship, please forgive me. My parents are daily wage labourers.]," the petitioner appealed.
"Aap ko laagta hain ki publicity ke liye jab chahe idhar aa sakte ho. Costs kam kar dunga, lekin maaf nahi karuna. [You think you can come to this court whenever you want for publicity. I will reduce the costs, but will not forgive you]," Justice Kaul said, as he directed the costs to be reduced to Rs 25,000.
"Mere paas rozgaar nahi hain. [I do not have a source of income]," the petitioner told the Bench, as he implored it to not impose any cost. Unwilling to relent, Justice Kaul said, "Rozgaar nahi hain toh hum recovery karenge, aur kya. Next matter! [If you do not have a source of income, we have no other way but to recover the debt. Next matter!]"
Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court had expressed concern at the "mushroom growth" of frivolous public interest litigations. A vacation Bench comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Hima Kohli had criticised such a practice since it encroached on "valuable judicial time". Such litigations should be be nipped in the bud, the Bench had observed.
Anand Kishor Choudhury v. Google India Pvt. Ltd. [WP (C) No. 820/2020]