Why hide contracts with Facebook, YouTube from us: HC asks Centre

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New Delhi | October 7, 2015 8:28 PM

Delhi High Court today asked the government why it was "hiding" the contracts it has with social media sites like Facebook and Google and not submitted them despite orders issued five months ago.

The court's direction and observations came while hearing a PIL filed by former BJP leader K N Govindacharya who has raised questions on the usage of social media by government departments. (Reuters)Delhi High Court’s direction and observations came while hearing a PIL that raised questions on the usage of social media sites like Facebook, Youtube etc by government departments. (Reuters)

Delhi High Court today asked the government why it was “hiding” the contracts it has with social media sites like Facebook and Google and not submitted them despite orders issued five months ago.

“Why are you not filing them (contract)? Why are you hiding them from us? Why aren’t you placing it? What is the hesitation? Why aren’t you doing it? It’s been five months since our May 7, 2015 direction,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said.

On May 7, the Centre had sought time to place before the court the “exact nature of the contracts which have been entered into by the Government/Government Departments with the social media sites on the internet”.

Thereafter on July 30, the government had again sought more time.

Today, the bench asked,”What do the contracts say? Because we have a lot to say on that.”

In response to the court’s query, the government counsel said the Centre has “standard contracts” with the sites and they are “not tailor-made”.

To this, the bench remarked, “that is exactly what he (petitioner) wants to say”.

The court’s direction and observations came while hearing a PIL filed by former BJP leader K N Govindacharya who has raised questions on the usage of social media by government departments.

The court, however, directed the Centre to ensure that the contracts it has pertaining to Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp be filed before the next date of hearing on October 28, so that the matter can be decided finally.

Advocate Virag Gupta, appearing for Govindacharya, told the court during the hearing that the “central government has become the biggest marketing agent for social media sites”.

Gupta also contended that as per contracts the government has with these companies, it is “transferring/surrendering” all intellectual property rights of the data being uploaded on these sites.

The high court on July 30 had asked the Centre to “come out” with details of contracts it has with social media sites to ascertain whether these websites have licences to the intellectual property rights of the contents uploaded.

Earlier, the court had observed it appeared that when anything was uploaded on social media sites, the websites got a licence to the intellectual property rights (IPR) of the content without paying any royalty and had asked the Centre whether it was aware of this.

The court had also observed that when the government gives royalty-free licence to Facebook without anything in return, “it was akin to (giving) state largesse”.

Govindacharya, in his plea, has contended that government departments like Delhi Police and Indian Railways were not entitled to create accounts on social networking sites.

He also sought recovery of taxes from the websites on their income from operations in India.

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