Online advertisements shall comply with Indian laws

Supreme Court disapproved of a stand taken by the central government and said that, an effort has to be made to ensure that websites displaying  advertisements shall not be in violation of the Indian law prohibiting sex determination of a feotus and “nothing contrary to laws of this country are advertised or shown on websites.”

It was a case where, Mr. Sabu Mathew George, through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleged that provisions of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, were being violated by search engines allowing advertisements related to sex determination techniques and products.

It was highlighted that the search engines such as Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt. Ltd., are still getting things advertised in violation of the legal provisions contained in the aforesaid Act. Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corp. India Pvt. Ltd, however, contended in court that they were not in violation of the law as they only provide a “corridor”.

In an affidavit filed by then UPA Government in the year 2010 said that, blocking websites featuring pre-natal sex determination advertisements “may not be desirable” as they “provide good content for medical education”. However, the affidavit accepts that pre-natal sex determination is a crime in India. But its reasons that, these advertisements are not just meant for Indian citizens but a global audience, some of whom belong to countries where it is not an offence.

Further, the affidavit filed by the Cyber Laws Formulation and Enforcement Division of the Department of Information Technology, said that, “most of these websites are hosted outside the country. Blocking such sites advertising pre-natal sex determination may not be feasible due to their hosting outside the country”.

Alarmed by the tone of “helplessness” in the four-year-old affidavit, the Bench asked for assistance from the current NDA government, saying an effort should be made to provide a legal solution that nothing contrary to the laws of this country are advertised or shown on websites.