Litigation Tracker

 

This page enlists the cases where SFLC.IN in various capacities, has provided legal support or has approached the different courts in India and in other jurisdictions, for the protection of digital rights.

 

 

22.09.2020

 
 

Name: Anivar A. Arvind vs. Ministry of Home Affairs (Aarogya Setu) [PIL WP (C) 7483 of 2020]

Issue: Privacy and FOSS

Forum or Court: Karnataka High Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Last date of hearing - 19.10.2020

Case Summary: Aarogya Setu is India’s contact tracing application which was launched in April, 2020. Since its launch, there have been several function creeps in the application. Advisory board member of SFLC.in Mr. Anivar A. Aravind moved to the Karnataka High Court, challenging the de-facto imposition of Aarogya Setu and lack of a specific legislation governing it. He was represented by lawyers from SFLC.in, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, Advocate Ali Zia Kabir, Advocate Clifton Rozario and Advocate Avani Chokshi.
The prayers for interim relief include that the Union of India must state it on record that Aarogya Setu will not be made mandatory for any services, and that the data collection and processing via Aarogya Setu must be scrapped until the Government brings a specific legislation governing data collection and data processing. The Petitioner has also prayed that all the data shared with third parties must be deleted.

Decision/Status: The case is pending adjudication before the court. On the last date of hearing, the Respondents had been directed to file their response on the mandatory-voluntary nature of the Aarogya Setu app.

Further Reading: A copy of the Petition can be accessed here. Case Updates can be found here

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27.07.2020

 
 

Name: Software Freedom Law Center, India vs. State of West Bengal [W.P. No. 5245 of 2020]

Issue: Internet Shutdown

Forum or Court: Calcutta High Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Last Date of hearing - 27.07.2020

Case Summary: SFLC.in filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), challenging the imposition of an internet shutdown which was imposed in Hoogly district in West Bengal on May 12, 2020.
The Petitioner claimed in the Petition that the shutdown was illegal and unconstitutional on the grounds of violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Decision/Status: The case is pending adjudication and the pleadings of parties have been completed. The case is to be listed for final arguments.

Further Reading: A detailed case note along with the copy of the PIL can be found here

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27.02.2020

 
 

Name: SFLC.in vs. State of West Bengal & Ors. [W.P. No. 3963 of 2020]

Issue: Internet Shutdown

Forum or Court: Calcutta High Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Case filed on 27.02.2020

Case Summary: SFLC.in filed a PIL challenging the suspension of internet services in 7 districts in West Bengal for a few hours during the Madhyamik Pariksha (Secondary Examination), which was reportedly done to prevent leaking and circulation of question papers and other forms of malpractices and cheating during the course of the said examination. The PIL highlighted the point that the students appearing in the exam were all mostly minors and therefore the action of suspension of internet services was unnecessary and unwarranted. (Secondary Examination), which was reportedly done to prevent leaking and circulation of question papers and other forms of malpractices and cheating during the course of the said examination. The PIL highlighted the point that the students appearing in the exam were all mostly minors and therefore the action of suspension of internet services was unnecessary and unwarranted.

Among other reliefs, the PIL prayed for:

  1. A direction for withdrawal of the Order imposing the internet shutdown.
  2. Production of all the Orders which imposed the shutdown.
  3. For issuance a direction to the government to inform the citizens in advance, before suspending telecommunication services.

 

Decision/Status: The Petition is pending adjudication before the Court and the listing has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

Further Reading: News coverage about the internet shutdown can be found here. A copy of the Petition can be found here.

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24.12.2019

 
 

Name: SFLC.in V. Union of India & Ors. [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13853/2019]

Issue: Internet Shutdown

Forum or Court: Delhi High Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 24.12.2019

Case Summary: Delhi witnessed its first ever internet shutdown on 19.12.2019 which was imposed in light of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
SFLC.IN filed a Writ Petition praying for setting aside the Order imposing the internet shutdown. The Petition argued that the internet shutdown imposed in Delhi was in violation of the provisions of the 2017 rules and that an arbitrary shutdown of internet services adversely affects the citizens and violates their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, among other rights. It also pointed out the economic detriments of imposing an internet shutdown.

Decision/Status: The Writ Petition was disposed off, without the Court getting into the merits of the case in relation to the legality of the order passed by the DCP which was done without any statutory authority. The Court also did not provide any proactive remedy for curbing arbitrary imposition of internet shutdowns in Delhi.

Further Reading: A detailed post about the case can be found here

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26.09.2018

 
 

Name: Impleadment Application on behalf of Ms. Maya Saran
Filed in the case of -
Shantha Sinha & Anr. vs. Union of India & Anr. [Writ Petition No. 342 of 2017]
[This case was tagged along with the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. V. Union of India and Others.
Writ Petition (C) No. 494 of 2012]

Issue: Aadhaar, Right to Privacy

Forum or Court: Supreme Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 26.09.2018

Case Summary: SFLC.in filed an impleadment application on behalf of the applicant who was a citizen of Canada and a resident of India, who had not enrolled for the Aadhaar project. The Applicant was aggrieved by the forced mandate to enroll for Aadhaar and the authentication by private enterprises. The application also pointed out that biometric technologies were neither secure nor infallible and by rolling out the technology, the entire population of India had been subjected to risks of identity theft and misuse.
The Applicant prayed for impleadment as a respondent in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 342 of 2017 - Shantha Sinha & Anr. vs. Union of India & Anr. The said Writ Petition had been filed seeking a direction to declare various sections of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 as null and void and the case was clubbed with the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012 - Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs. Union of India and Others.
The Applicant also prayed for the issuance of an Order against the Respondents to give out a clarification to all entities using Aadhaar for authentication and verification, regarding exemption from mandatory use of Aadhaar for the Applicant since she was a foreign citizen and for a direction to all such entities to ensure the availability of a convenient alternative method for verification for the Applicant.

Decision/Status: The cIn its much awaited judgment, the majority view upheld the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, barring a few provisions on disclosure of personal information, cognizance of offences and use of the Aadhaar ecosystem by private corporations. DY Chandrachud J. delivered a dissenting opinion debasing the entire Aadhaar scheme along with the Act.

Further Reading: A copy of the Judgment can be found here .
SFLC.in’s coverage of the hearings before the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar case can be found here.
A post containing a detailed summary of the Aadhaar judgment can be found here

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24.09.2019

 
 

Name: Google LLC vs. Commission Nationale De L’informatique et des libertes (CNIL) [Case C-507/17]

Issue: Personal Data protection, Right to be forgotten

Forum or Court: Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 24.09.2019

Case Summary: In 2014, the French Data Protection Authority, the CNIL (Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertés) ordered Google to remove 21 links from a set of results of an internet search in respect of the name of a French citizen who claimed a “right to be forgotten”. Google removed the links from its French search site and other European search sites but CNIL demanded that it go further, stating that when it orders content to be “forgotten” from search results, the decision must be given effect globally and the results must be unavailable to all the users around the world, regardless of the place from which they are accessing internet search engines. CNIL also imposed a fine of € 100,000 on Google.
The case was referred to the CJEU by the Conseil d’Etat in France, after Google refused to de-reference information from jurisdictions beyond the European Union as it had been ordered to do by the CNIL.
SFLC.in along with 17 other civil society organizations from around the world had intervened in this matter. The Written Observations highlighted serious concerns about CNIL’s approach and its implications on human rights worldwide. It also submitted that the Right to be de-listed (“RTBD”) must be interpreted in line with the strict proportionality test and in a manner which is strictly necessary to achieve the protection of the rights of the individual seeking the RTBD. It further proposed that due regard must be had to the fundamental importance of freedom of expression and access to information online and across borders.

Decision/Status: The Court held that search engines who have been requested for de-referencing links under the right to be forgotten, are not obliged to perform the de-referencing from all (global) versions of its service.
CJEU stated that a number of countries around the world either do not recognize the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) or have different approaches to it. The Court referred to GDPR and stated that the protection of personal data was not an absolute right and it had to be counterbalanced with other rights such as the right to freedom of information of internet users as per the principle of proportionality.

Further Reading: Details about the case can be found here

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19.09.2019

 
 

Name: Fahima Shireen vs. State of Kerala [I.A. No. 1/19 in W.P. (C) No. 19716/2019]

Issue: Internet Rights

Forum or Court: Kerala High Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 19.09.2019

Case Summary: An undergraduate student in Kerala filed a Writ Petition before the Court against hostel rules which were discriminatory against female residents. The hostel rules prohibited the usage of mobile phones between 6pm to 10pm for residents of girls’ hostel. Moreover, undergraduate students were not allowed to use laptops in hostel premises. The Petitioner had also been expelled from the college hostel for using the mobile phone beyond the restricted hours.
The Petition claimed that the rule was in contravention of Article 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
SFLC.in filed an impleadment application in this case, raising the importance of internet and use of digital resources to learn and communicate.

Decision/Status :The Court held that the right to access the internet is a part of the fundamental right to education as well as the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court also ordered the Principal of the college in question to re-admit the Petitioner who had been expelled from the college hostel.

Further Reading :A detailed post about the case along with a copy of the judgment can be found here

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28.06.2017

 
 

Name: Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc. [SCC 34, (2017) 1 S.C.R. 824]

Issue: Global content take down

Forum or Court: Supreme Court of Canada

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 28.06.2017

Case Summary: Google was asked to de-index listings for protection of trade secret rights of a subject from its global versions but it refused to do so.
SFLC.in had filed an intervention in this case.

Decision/Status: The court ruled against Google and directed the company for a global takedown which required the search engine to de-index the listings from its global versions.

Further Reading Text of the judgment can be found here

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24.03.2015

 
 

Name: Mouthshut vs. Union of India [W.P. (C) No. 217 of 2013]
[Tagged along with Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India W.P. (Crl.) No. 167 of 2012]

Issue: Intermediary Liability

Forum or Court: Supreme Court

Date of Decision/Last hearing: Decided on 24.03.2015

Case Summary: This Writ Petition was clubbed with the main Petition bearing W.P. (Crl.) No. 167 of 2012, in the landmark case of Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India and Others.
The Writ Petition was filed by Mouthshut.com, a social networking, user review website which acts as a platform for consumers to express their opinion on goods and services.
The Petitioners were aggrieved by the fact that they use to constantly receive threatening calls from police officials from various states in India, demanding them to block comments or content hosted by them on their platform. Moreover, the Petitioners were regularly receiving notices under Section 91 and 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and legal notices from private parties, threatening the Petitioners with filing of defamation and civil suits in different courts in India.
The Petitioners argued that it enjoyed immunity from liability under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and as the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 stood in conflict with Section 79, the Petitioner challenged the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 as being ultra vires of the IT Act and of Article 13, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.
SFLC.in provided legal assistance and representation to the Petitioner

Decision/Status: Section 66-A was struck down as being unconstitutional.
Section 69-A and the Information technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 were held to be constitutionally valid.
Section 79(3)(b) and Rule 3 sub-rule (4) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 were read down to mean that an intermediary was only obliged to remove content upon receiving “actual knowledge” from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency.

Further Reading: More details about the case can be found here
A copy of the judgment can be found here

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