New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the Centre's response on a plea questioning how children below the age of 18 years are allowed to open an account on social networking sites including Facebook, even though Indian laws do not permit it. The court also asked two US-based entities - Facebook Inc and Google Inc - to reply to the plea of former BJP ideologue KN Govindacharya seeking an order for recovery of taxes from the websites on their income from operations in India.
A bench of justices BD Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru asked Sumit Pushkarna, the counsel for the Centre, to make the government's stand clear on the issue through an affidavit within 10 days and posted the matter for May 13. "How children below 18 years can have an agreement with any of the social network sites including Facebook? The Union of India is directed to file an affidavit on the issue within 10 days," the bench said.
The court also said, "Both Facebook Inc and Google Inc are US-based entities and are hereby impleaded as respondents. Notices to be issued to the newly added parties." The bench passed the order after hearing the argument of Govindacharya's counsel Veerag Gupta that children below 18 are getting into an agreement with the social networking sites to open an account which is against the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and also the Information and
Due to non-verification of users, more than eight crore of Facebook users across the world were found to be "fake", which the website admitted before the US authority, Gupta submitted. The Government of India is not taking any action against the foreign companies which have their Indian operations, the counsel contended.
Govindacharya, at present a patron of 'Rashtriya Swabhimaan Aandolan', has in a public interest litigation (PIL) also sought directions to the Centre and the two websites to "ensure proper accounting compliances as per RBI guidelines". "Facebook's gross revenue for previous year was $37 billion approximately but they are not paying due taxes to the Indian government," the petition said.
The petition also sought a direction to ensure safety of the data of 50 million Indian users, which was transferred "to the US and is being used for commercial gains in violation of the right to privacy." It contended that a writ of Mandamus should be issued to "ensure verification of all existing users and future new members of social networking websites with instructions not to do agreements with children below 18 years".
The petition also sought creation of a national register of persons indulging in sexual offences and heinous crimes and stopping such persons from joining social networking websites. The PIL, which listed the alleged violations of various terms by the websites, also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that government officers "do not use social networking websites through government computers" as they may pose a threat to sensitive data and national computer network. "As per telecommunication minister's statement in Parliament, the government lost $4 billion every year due to cyber crimes and approximately 90 million government websites were hacked in last three years," it said.