Facts of the Case
In September 2019, Sasikala Pushpa filed a suit against the Union of India, Facebook Inc., Google LLC, and YouTube LLC. She also filed it against various unknown persons, preventing them from broadcasting any defamatory material against her. This also included alleged objectionable photographs or any fabricated material.
Saiskala Pushpa, the Plaintiff, was a member of Rajya Sabha. She was from All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). She received threats about the distribution of photographs and videos on social media to defame her. Later, an certain unknown person uploaded the photographs, as mentioned earlier, on social media.
The Court issued an ex-parte ad-interim injunction against social media platforms. It was restraining them from publishing or showing any defamatory material related to the Plaintiff. Furthermore, Sasikala Pushpa sought an injunction order against Google, YouTube, and Facebook. It was for not verifying the authenticity of the photographs before publishing them.
Though the photographs do not qualify as obscene, the presence of a political rival qualifies to be defamatory. It also affects the membership of the Plaintiff. The plaintiff’s submission included the photographs not being genuine. Further, publishing them on social media platforms is violative of the plaintiff’s privacy. The Plaintiff also contends that the photographs are being morphed, forged, and also fabricated.
Facebook Inc. stated that they are an intermediary; they are not obliged to scan the information uploaded. They further included in their statement that they had no role in sharing or modifying any information from a third party.
Google LLC and YouTube filed a written statement together. They submitted that the injunctions are vague and contrary to defamation law. They also submitted that they are neither the host nor the publisher of any information obtained by a third party.
The Court observed the photographs and materials on record. It said, that the photographs were not obscene or scandalising in any manner. Further, the Court said, “…the photographs of the plaintiff, I repeat, a politician, with a man other than the husband, can by any stretch of imagination considered by any person of average intellect and moral standard, to be lowering the esteem in which the plaintiff held or as tarnishing the image of the plaintiff.”
The Court considered that matter of violation of Plaintiff’s privacy and stated,
“….. the electorate has a right to know of the behind curtains meetings of the plaintiff with a man other than her husband and particularly a man belonging to a political party which the plaintiff before the public criticizes or opposes in the elections”
Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in his statement denied any relief to the Plaintiff. The Court directed her to pay Rs. Two Lakh each, to Facebook, and Google and YouTube LLC together.
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