On an oral request made by Aparna Bhat, counsel for the petitioner in the ongoing case involving uploading of obscene videos such as those of sexual violence on websites, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, today made WhatsApp as a party-respondent .
The bench directed issue of notice to WhatsApp Inc., returnable on April 13.
A committee comprising various stakeholders has already been set up by the Central Government to assist and advise the Supreme Court on the feasibility of ensuring that videos depicting gang rape, child pornography and rape should not be made available to the general public, apart from anything else, to protect the identity and reputation of the victims and also because a circulation of such videos cannot be in public interest at all.
The committee consists of Dr.Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, (Chairman), Dr.Sanjay Bahl (Director-General, MEIT), Rakesh Maheshwari, Scientist-G(MEIT), two representatives of Home Ministry, Aparna Bhat, Amicus Curiae, N.S.Nappinai, Vikram Langeh, Manager, Trust and Safety, Facebook, South and Central Asia, one technically qualified person to be nominated by Facebook, Google Inc and Google India representatives, Anthony Surleraux, Kseniia Duxfield-Karyakina, and Gitanjali Duggal, and representatives of Yahoo India, and Microsoft.
The committee has already begun its meetings, and is expected to arrive at a consensus on the possibility of ensuring that such objectionable videos pertaining to child pornography, gang rape, and rape are not made available on the internet. “For some technical reasons, if this is not possible, the committee has to explain and detail the reasons why it is not possible”, the Court’s order of March 22 says. The Court has directed the results of the meetings to be kept confidential and report kept in a sealed cover till it is presented to the court. The next hearing of the case is on April 24 at 2 p.m.
Today’s order means that WhatsApp’s representative is also expected to make a presentation to the committee, if possible through video conferencing, to assist the committee. Aparna Bhat has been asked to send a detailed email to WhatsApp for this purpose.
Read the Order here.