X v. Union of India & Ors.

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

Plea for removal of images from pornographic websites

X v. Union of India & Ors.
In the High Court of Delhi
WP (Crl.) 1082/2020, Crl. MA. 9485,10986-87/2020
Before Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani
Decided on April 20, 2021

Relevancy of the case: Plea for removal of images from pornographic websites

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66C, 67, 79, 85)
  • The Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 (Rule 10)
  • The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Rule 3(1)(d), 4(1)(d), 7)
  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 354A)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The petitioner’s pictures were taken from her secure private social media accounts and posted on a pornographic site without her consent.
  • The petitioner filed a complaint on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal and the jurisdictional police, but the pictures were not taken down.
  • Disregarding the court’s directives to take down the photographs, Desi Collector and other platforms have re-posted the pictures onto other websites.

Prominent Arguments by the Advocates

  • The petitioner’s counsel argued that though the pictures were not objectionable, they became so by association as they were posted on a pornographic website.
  • The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the intermediaries often do not cooperate and resort to other methods such as asking police to get Letters Rogatory (LRs) and provide them with prolix remedies.
  • The respondent’s counsel submitted that Google is only a search engine and indexes content already available online. Hence, they only have the role of disabling URLs from search results and not removing the content.
  • The respondent’s counsel also clarifies that search engines require the image and website URLs to disable the content. Without these, it is more difficult to weed out image-based content from text-based content.
  • The respondent’s counsel submits that ISPAI members don’t have control over what content is circulated on the internet.
  • The respondent’s counsel assures that they do comply with any ‘blocking orders’ issued by the authorities.

Opinion of the Bench

  • The court noted that Rule 7 of IT Rules 2021 provides for penal consequences if intermediaries do not comply with the IT Rules, 2021.
  • The bench holds that neither the 2021 Rules nor the 2011 Rules supersede the 2009 Rules.
  • The court also believes that for effective implementation of the order, the search engines should restrict access to the content worldwide.
  • The court then goes on to suggest guidelines for similar cases. These include directing search engines to de-index the content within 24 hours, preserving all information regarding offending content, etc.
  • This also includes mandating intermediaries to have a system where they disable identical content.
  • The court directs the Delhi Police to disable access to the URLs provided by the petitioner. The court also directed the search engines to do the same on a global level.

Final Decision

  • The present and pending applications stood disposed of.

This case summary has been prepared by Mehula Liza Pallathu, an undergraduate student at the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi, during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in May/June 2021.