Bombay HC dismisses plea challenging FB block on Sanatan Sanstha pages

Panaji: The Bombay High Court in Goa on Monday dismissed a petition filed by the state-based Hindu organisation Sanatan Sanstha, which had challenged the blocking of three pages on Facebook.

The Court order said that the petitioner had been unable to point out any provision under the Information Technology Act, 2000, vis a vis maintaining a page on the popular social media site, without agreeing to its contractual terms.

In an order, a division bench comprising Justices M.S. Jawalkar and M.S. Sonak also said that the relief sought by the petitioner was based on “sketchy and unclear pleadings”.

“Even, otherwise, Mr. (Shirish) Punalekar (counsel for Sanatan Sanstha) was unable to point out any provision under the Information Technology Act, based on which the petitioner could insist on maintaining a Facebook page on the platform provided by Respondents No.3 (Facebook India Online Services) and 4 (Facebook Inc.), without agreeing to be bound by the contractual terms that may have been proposed,” the order said.

The Sanstha had moved the HC to challenge the blocking of three pages on Facebook, which were established several years back.

The petitioner had claimed that the pages had been blocked by Facebook because they clashed with the “community standards” of the social media site.

In his petition, Sanatan Sanstha counsel Punalekar had claimed that the right to edit and block pages on Facebook “seriously prejudice the petitioner’s right to equal treatment and the Petitioner’s right to freedom of speech and expression.

Counsels of Facebook had said that the matter raised before the HC was “in the realm of contract and if at all the petitioner has any grievance, the petitioner will have to seek redressal before any appropriate forum which is empowered to adjudicate the disputes between the two private parties.

The High Court bench, however, maintained that the matter was to state policy and said that “it is normally not for this Court to direct the Government to establish a mechanism to regulate the social media platform or provide some active, fast and cheap grievances redressal forum, as suggested by the petitioner”, while dismissing the petition.

“Based on the sketchy and unclear pleadings in this matter, however, there is no case made out for grant of any declaratory relief in this petition,” Court also said.