Google Inc. and Facebook have promptly disposed off objectionable content on their respective Web sites, in the wake of a court directive from the country's courts, warning them of censorship if they failed to protect the religious interests of people. The companies involved have been given 15 days to comply with the directive.
There are approximately 21 firms facing civil lawsuits, accused as they are of hosting offensive and religion-sensitive material on their Web sites. These include Yahoo, Orkut, Facebook and Google.
Complying with a court directive from Judge Mukesh Kumar in New Delhi, Google has reportedly removed objectionable content from YouTube and Blogger. The material, including pictures of some religious figures is omitted from the Indian web domain, while it is readily accessible elsewhere.
"This step is in accordance with Google's longstanding policy of responding to court orders," said Google in a report.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Yahoo have tried to dodge media queries in the wake of the court's directive to filter offensive content. The former declined to comment on the issue while the latter was unreachable. Microsoft, which is also among the 21 firms accused, has chosen to reject the plea on grounds that "it disclosed no cause of action against Microsoft".
There have been two separate lawsuits filed against Internet giants, opposing allegedly distasteful content on the web. One such lawsuit is from a private petitioner - Ajiaz Arshad Qasmi - accusing several Internet companies of hosting hateful content against religious communities that could fuel communal unrest in India. Another petition is filed by a Hindu journalist - Vinay Rai - making similar allegations against Facebook, Google and others.
The trial is set to begin next month. However, the Delhi High Court is apparently waiting a decision regarding the companies' appeal to settle, to be made on Feb. 14.
"The issue is related to constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression, and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China," stated Google lawyer NK. Kaul in an earlier court hearing.
Despite assurances given by the Internet giants, the Delhi district court judge insisted the accused provide a written statement within 15 days, detailing the removal of the material to avoid censorship.