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Indian Case Summary

Google India Private Limited vs M/S Visaka Industries Limited And … on 18 November, 2016 – Case Summary

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In the case of Google India Private Limited vs M/S Visaka Industries Limited and others, the Andhra High Court delivered a judgment on 18th November 2016. The case was presided over by Hon’ble Sri Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy. The appeal was filed by Google India Private Limited, the second defendant in the original suit, challenging the decree and judgment passed in A.S.No.50 of 2014 by the I Additional Chief Judge, City Civil Court, Secunderabad. This judgment had reversed the original judgment of XVIII Junior Civil Judge-cum-Additional Rent Controller, Secunderabad in O.S.No.143 of 2010.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, M/s Visaka Industries Limited, a registered company engaged in the business of manufacturing asbestos cement sheets since 1981, filed a suit claiming that two messages posted by the first defendant on the blog site of the second and third defendants were defamatory. The first defendant was a coordinator of Ban Asbestos India, a group hosted by the second defendant, Google India Private Limited. The messages in question contained allegations against the plaintiff’s company and were available for a worldwide audience.

The plaintiff argued that the messages were defamatory and damaging to its reputation and business. The plaintiff had issued a notice to the defendants requesting them to delete the articles and had also claimed compensation of Rs. 20 crores for the damage caused to its reputation. However, the defendants did not respond, leading to the plaintiff launching a criminal prosecution against the first and second defendants.

Issues

The court had to determine several issues, including whether the court had jurisdiction to try the case, whether the suit disclosed any cause of action against the second and third defendants, whether an intermediary service provider was liable for content uploaded on the website by third parties, and whether the messages in question were defamatory in nature.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the second defendant, Google India Private Limited, was an intermediary service provider and did not have control over the content posted on the Google Groups website. The court also noted that the second defendant did not act as a representative or agent of the third defendant, particularly for the services on the Google Groups website.

The court further observed that under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2002, an intermediary service provider is not liable for content uploaded by third parties. The court noted that the second defendant did not act as a moderator for any of the groups, including the specific group in question, and had no legal obligation to scrutinize, edit, or monitor the material authored by a user of the service prior to it being uploaded on the website.

Judgment

The court held that the second defendant, Google India Private Limited, being an intermediary, was not liable for the postings on the blog site. The court also held that the messages posted by the first defendant on the blog site of the second and third defendants were defamatory in nature. The court directed the second and third defendants to withdraw the defamatory messages posted by the first defendant on their blog site.

The court’s judgment in this case highlights the role and responsibilities of intermediary service providers in relation to defamatory content posted on their platforms. It underscores the principle that while intermediaries may provide a platform for users to post content, they are not liable for the content posted by third parties unless they have control over such content.