HC notices to Centre, Facebook India, Google India on PIL

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought responses of the Centre, Facebook India and Google India on a plea by former BJP ideologue K.N. Govindacharya for recovery of taxes on their income from operations in India.

"Issue notice to the respondents. The Centre is to file its reply within four weeks," a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajiv Shakdher said.

Govindacharya, presently a patron of 'Rashtriya Swabhimaan Aandolan', in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition, has also sought directions to the Centre and the two websites to 'ensure proper accounting compliances as per RBI guidelines'.

The petition also sought a direction to ensure safety of the data of 50 million Indian users, which were transferred 'to the USA and being used for commercial gains in violation of the right to privacy'.

"Issue a writ of mandamus ...to ensure verification of all existing users and future new members of social networking websites with instructions not to do agreements with children below 13 years," said the plea, filed through lawyer Virag Gupta.

The plea 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 petition, 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 threat to sensitive data and national computer network.

"As per telecommunication minister’s statement in Parliament, the government lost 4 billion USD every year due to cyber-crimes and approximately 90 million government websites were hacked in last 3 years," it said.

Govindacharya, in his PIL, said "Facebook gross revenue for previous year was approximately 37 billion USD but they are not paying due taxes on their Indian operations as per the provisions of Double Tax Avoidance Agreement and the government is not taking any action to safeguard the national interest and the sovereignty of the country."

Anonymous hackers have again threatened to attack the government websites from June nine ''to protest blocking of websites illegally sharing video contents," the petition said.

It also sought directions to the Centre to impose penalty on social networking sites and other internet companies 'for non-verification of users and to recover damages for causing huge loss to the government and the Indian economy due to anonymous users' illegal operations through such sites'.

Referring to a report of Mumbai ATS, the PIL said the accused of the July 13 blast in Mumbai last year were in touch with each other and the Indian Mujahideen operatives through Facebook since 2008.

"Facebook is one of prominent social networking website with more than 50 million Indian users and as per their own records approximately 5 to 6 per cent of their accounts are fake or being operated by anonymous users due to non-authentication of details by the company before opening of accounts as required by their terms of agreement," it said.

The Centre's KYC (know your customer) guidelines, applicable to the telecom companies are not being followed by the social sites which is 'causing the biggest security risk to the nation,' it said.

"As per reports, Facebook has further allowed account opening by children below 13 years of age who may be 1/3rd of their registered users just to exploit online gaming market and increase advertisement revenue," it said.

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