Delhi High Court orders appointment of grievance officers

Appointment of grievance officers

The Delhi High Court while hearing the case of K.N. Govindacharya v. Union of India [W.P.(C) 3672/2012] dated 23.08.2013 has directed the appointment of grievance officers under Rule 3(11) of the Intermediaries Rules, 2011.

The Court observed:

“On going through the above, sub rule (11), we feel that it should be directed that intermediaries, including the social networking sites such as Facebook and Orkut, should immediately publish the names of the respective Grievance Officers on their websites alongwith contact numbers as well as the mechanism by which any user or any victim who suffers as a result of access or usage of computer resource by any person in violation of rule 3, can notify their complaints against such access or usage. The same be complied with, if not already done, within two weeks.”

Effect of Appointment

This by itself is not revolutionary given that the Intermediary Rules, 2011 have been promulgated for more than two years. The recent court direction may have two unintentional outcomes. Firstly, it will begin the implementation of the Intermediaries Rules, 2011. These Rules, which are presently under challenge before the Supreme Court incentivise censorship by private intermediaries. Hence, this problematic law will now be enforced more widely. Secondly, the compulsory appointment of a Grievance officer may not be the best option for smaller technology companies which rely on customer generated data. Hiring or assigning a particular person to fulfil such a function may be a high cost for a smaller intermediary.

Other Concerns

Other concerns which arise from this Petition are, the validity of consent of minors to create accounts on social networking websites. Most social networking websites allow the creation of accounts even to minors who are more than 13 years old. The Order also records that though social networking websites seem to comply with Rule 3(1) of the Intermediary Rules, 2011 by putting up Terms of Use and Privacy Policies, their compliance with Rule 3(2) which specifies the contents of terms needs to be examined.

It is to be stressed that the Intermediary Rules, 2011 are under challenge under a batch of Petitions clubbed with the Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, even though there is no stay against their operation.

 

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