Women are placed on a higher pedestal and photographs breaching their privacy cannot be allowed, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday while hearing former AIADMK leader Sasikala Pushpa's appeal challenging an order which dismissed her claim that her image was being tarnished by alleged morphed photos and videos with a man on social media.
The court also observed that outraging modesty of a woman in any manner is a criminal offence. Facebook, Google and YouTube contended, however, that they are only intermediaries and do not upload any content on their platforms.
Sasikala has challenged the single judge's order and urged the division bench to direct them to remove the objectionable photographs and also to set aside the cost imposed on her by the single judge.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh, during the video conferencing hearing, observed, "We put women on a higher pedestal. We don't want any photographs which breach her privacy."
The bench asked the social media giants to remove the offending material from their platforms. "No more mud raising, put an end to it," the bench said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, said it is only an intermediary and they have not uploaded any material.
The platforms have their own system of checking the objectionable content and keep on removing it, he said, adding that if the court will order them to remove the material, they will abide by the directions.
When the counsel for Facebook said these were consensual photographs, the judge said that may be so but it could be for personal consumption and not to be made public.
Senior advocate Arun Kathpalia, appearing for Google and YouTube, also said they were intermediaries and do not upload the content on the Internet and can only disable the URLs.
He said he was protesting the practice of impleading only intermediaries in a suit and not the one who has uploaded the content on the Internet.
"Intermediaries have no interest in defending the content. You cannot sue us without impleading the party who has uploaded the content," he argued.
The bench asked the counsel for the parties to discuss the objectionable material to be removed and listed the matter for further proceedings on July 8.
The single judge, in its June 2 order, had observed that people have a right to know with whom their electoral representative is meeting behind closed doors and hobnobbing with.
It had said the politician was not entitled to any relief against the social media giants to remove the photographs and to block access to them and directed her to equally pay costs of Rs 2 lakh each to Facebook Inc on the one hand and Google LLC and YouTube LLC together on the other hand.
Sasikala, who was an expelled AIADMK MP (Rajya Sabha) at the time of filing of suit in 2016, joined the BJP in April this year.
Earlier, in an interim order, the high court had restrained Facebook, Google and Youtube from publishing or showing any alleged derogatory photographs of her after she claimed that some unknown persons were threatening to tarnish her image by uploading her morphed photos and videos.
She had sought an injunction order against the social media platforms on the ground that they have not made any attempt to verify the authenticity of the photographs before uploading it.