The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case of Ms. Aaradhya bachchan and Anr. Vs. Bollywood Time & Ors. [CS (COMM) 230 of 2023], dated 20.04.2023, ruled that every child is entitled to be treated with honor and respect, be it a child of a celebrity or a commoner.
In the present case, Defendant No.1 to 9, despite of the fact that Ms. Aaradhya Bachchan (hereinafter referred to as “Plaintiff No. 1”), daughter of Abhishek Bachchan (hereinafter referred to as “Plaintiff No. 2”) and Aishwarya Bachchan, is a healthy 11 year school going child, merely for the sake of gaining publicity have been spreading false information on YouTube claiming that the health of the Plaintiff No. 1 is critically ill, even to the extent that one of the videos even claimed that she was no more.
The Plaintiffs being aggrieved by the aforementioned acts of the Defendant No. 1 to 9 have filed the present suit before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi (hereinafter referred to as “High Court”) claiming that the circulation of misleading information on YouTube is in violation of the Plaintiff’s right to privacy, Copyright Protection and Rule 3(1) (b) (iii) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 (hereinafter referred to as “IT Rules, 2021”)
a. Whether High Court can grant Ad-interim Injunction against the false information being circulated on Digital Platforms?
b. Whether it is mandatory for the the intermediaries, in this case Google LLC i.e., Defendant No. 10 to take proactive measures in taking down such content envisaged in IT Rules, 2021?
The Counsel for Plaintiff –
That in the pre-amended IT Rules, 2021, the Intermediaries were only required to take draw up an agreement with its user undertaking that the user will not post the excepted categories of contents. However, in light of the recent amendment brought in the IT Rules, 2021 vide 2022 Amendment Rules, The Intermediaries are required to “make reasonable efforts to cause the user of its computer resource not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any such information”
Furthermore, the “Significant Social Intermediary” in lieu of Rule 4 of the IT Rules, 2021 is required to take additional due diligence to proactively identify information “that depicts any act or simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct, whether explicit or implicit, or any information which is exactly identical”
Therefore, the intermediaries now in light of Rule 3(1) (b) and Rule 4(4) of the IT Rules, 2021 can no longer claim to be a mere passive spectator regarding the information, which is uploaded on its platform, but is required to be more proactive in nature. The Intermediaries in order to comply with the amended rules must make reasonable efforts to prevent users from posting prohibited content.
The Counsel for the Defendant –
That the Defendant has in place a “zero tolerance policy” with respect to cases such as child pornography and other such content, for which they have a special mechanism in place. However, the Defendant does not have control over the content of the videos posted on the platform, since they are not reviewed before publication.
Therefore, the Defendant cannot take proactive measures to stop its users from uploading misleading information about the Plaintiff, until an objection with respect to the content is brought to the notice of the Defendant.
That furthermore, the term “reasonable effort” in Rule 3(1)(b) and Rule 4(4) of the amended IT Rules, 2021 shall be interpreted in accordance with Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).
DECISION AND FINDINGS
The Court took note of the arguments of the Plaintiff and the Defendant and held that, although it is a common practice that false information is spread about celebrities. However, when it involves a young child, it shows a disturbing and perverse disregard for the child’s well-being.
Every child, whether of a celebrity or a commoner, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. In the eyes of the law, spreading misleading information about a child’s health or mental state is completely unacceptable.
The Hon’ble High Court in view of the above, granted Ad-Interim Injunction in favor of the Plaintiffs, restricting the Defendant No. 1 to 9 from creating, publishing, uploading, sharing, or distributing any videos that are similar or identical in content to the videos, which circulates misleading information about the Plaintiff No. 1’s health or physical state.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court has taken a strong and commendable stance in protecting the privacy and dignity of children, especially when it comes to false and sensitive information being circulated about them. The Court’s decision to grant ad interim relief to the plaintiffs and to impose restrictions on the defendants from spreading such information is a positive step towards safeguarding the interests of children and upholding their rights.
The Court emphasized on the responsibility of intermediaries to comply with all regulations and guidelines governing their operations is also notable, as it highlights the need for intermediaries to be held accountable for their actions in relation to content dissemination on their platforms. Overall, the Court’s decision seems to be well-reasoned and in line with the principles of justice and fairness.
– Team AMLEGALS, assisted by Mr. Vinay Sachdev (Intern)
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