The Delhi High Court on Thursday admitted social media giant Facebook‘s appeal, challenging a single-judge order directing it to globally remove, block or disable links to a video containing defamatory allegations against yoga guru Ramdev.
A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh listed the matter on December 7 for final hearing, saying it hoped that the arguments would conclude on that day.
The court said it would not be passing any interim order, putting on hold the single’s judge’s October 23 direction, since the appeal was listed for final hearing.
Facebook, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, urged the bench to direct Ramdev not to initiate contempt action against it while the appeal was pending.
However, before the court could pass such a direction, the counsel appearing for the yoga guru said since the matter was listed for final hearing on December 7, no contempt action would be initiated by his client against the social media platform.
Google, its subsidiary YouTube and Twitter, which were also directed by Justice Pratibha M Singh to globally remove access to the video, told the bench that their appeals were also on the way and urged the court that they be protected from contempt proceedings as well.
In response to the oral plea, the bench asked Google and others to first file their appeals.
The single judge had directed Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter to forthwith remove, block or disable on a global basis links to a video containing defamatory allegations against Ramdev.
Justice Singh had held that merely “geo-blocking” or disabling access to the defamatory content to viewers from India, as agreed to by the social media platforms, would not be sufficient as users residing here could gain access to it by other means.
Observing that “the race between technology and the law could be termed as a hare and tortoise race — as technology gallops, the law tries to keep pace”, the court had said the provisions of the Information Technology Act had to be interpreted in a manner so as to ensure that judicial orders were effective and “not toothless”.
The court issued the direction to globally block links to the video after the social media platforms said that while they had no objection to blocking the URLs and disabling the same, insofar as access in India was concerned, they were opposed to removal or blocking or disabling the defamatory content on a global basis.
The defamatory video contained excerpts of a book on Ramdev that were ordered to be deleted by the high court in September last year.
The high court had, on September 29, 2018, restrained the publisher and author of the book “Godman from Tycoon” from publishing it till the offending portions were deleted, the judge noted.
In the October 23 judgment, the single judge had noted that viewing the video or reading its transcript gave the impression that Ramdev “has been involved in various murders, financial irregularities, misuse of animal parts, etc.”.
“Thus, the content of the video to the extent it contains paraphrasing of content which was directed to be removed from the book is held to be defamatory. A perusal of the video transcript and the offending portion of the book show the clear similarity and prima facie, establish that the video is derived from the book and hence is defamatory,” the court had said.