Court refuses to go easy on hate site

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By SAMANWAYA RAUTRAY in Delhi
  • Published 24.02.09
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New Delhi, Feb. 24: The Supreme Court has refused to quash criminal proceedings against a computer student who created a hate community on networking website Orkut.

A member of the “I hate Shiv Sena” community, which is over 500-strong, posted a death threat against Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

D. Ajith, the 20-year-old student from Kerala, denied posting the threat. “He only created the anti-Shiv Sena site. He has not posted any harmful things,” Ajith’s lawyer Jogy Scaria said.

The criminal proceedings against Ajith had been initiated by the cyber crime cell of Mumbai police.

A bench yesterday turned down Ajith’s plea to quash the case. Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said: “We will not do that. Anything that is posted on the Internet goes to the public. The Internet is open to the world.”

Ajith, who was 19 when he created the community, is studying computer science at a private college in Cherthala, Kerala.

His community lambasted the Sena chief and his party for illiberal policies. The site featured writings accusing the Sena chief of dividing the country on religious, caste and regional lines.

The police had registered a case against Ajith on the charge of posting a death threat to Thackeray on the Orkut site. The student faces charges of criminal intimidation and hurting religious sentiments.

The police had monitored Ajith’s Gmail account and postings on Orkut for a week before zeroing in on his residence near a government ayurveda college in Mararikulam.

They questioned Ajith’s father and confiscated the hard disk of his computer.

The police had been monitoring the website ever since the Sena staged a series of violent protests against Orkut for carrying anti-party comments. Cybercafés across Mumbai were vandalised.

Mumbai police then wrote to the Centre seeking guidelines to tackle such websites.

The Sena also threatened cybercafé owners to prohibit access to Orkut or face closure.

Google, which runs the networking site, has since tied up with police in five Indian cities to monitor objectionable material on Orkut. It has also advised users on how to report abuse and prevent sharing of private information.

India has the third highest number of Orkut users, according to data on its website. Around 53.25 per cent of Orkut users are from Brazil, 18.85 per cent from the US and 16.02 per cent from India.

A petition has also been submitted before the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court against Orkut and other social networking sites.

Lawyer Yugant R. Marlapalle has urged the bench to issue a directive to all network service providers operating in India to ensure their sites are not used to promote content that is inimical to the country or promotes hate and violence.