Google India told a court in India on Monday that it was not liable for defamatory posts on Blogger, as it is not a party to an agreement between Google, the parent company of both Google India and Blogger, and those who use the blogging service.
The Indian company made the statement in connection with a case filed by Ashwin Mehta, a cardiologist in Mumbai, alleging that he had been defamed by some blogs that used Google's Blogger service. Mehta has also filed for damages to be paid by Google India.
The blogging service cannot monitor and control what is being posted all the time, Google India told the Bombay High Court, according to people present in the courtroom.
Google India also argued that it was not liable in the case as Blogger is owned by parent company Google.
In an earlier order, a judge of the High Court restrained Google India from hosting any blog that defamed Mehta. The current submission by Google India came up in connection with an appeal against that order.
The next hearing of Google India's appeal is July 7.
Pointing out that Google India is a subsidiary of Google, Mehta's lawyer Yatin Shah said on Tuesday that Google's stand will hurt affected individuals in India, as it suggests that they will have to approach U.S. courts for any remedies.
Foreign Internet companies when dragged to court in India have typically tried to pass the blame to their parent company in the U.S., said Sabu Mathew George, an activist. "This is a legal fiction as these same Internet companies tell the U.S. Congress that they are bound by local laws in China and other countries that they operate," George said.
George complained last year to India's Supreme Court that some Internet companies including Google were promoting techniques and products for selecting the sex of babies in India through advertising and links on their search engines. Such advertisements are illegal in India.
Google said it is not able to comment as the case is in progress.
The cases Google and some other Internet companies are facing in India also bring into focus the issue of the liability of intermediaries for third-party content.
Google has in the past objected to provisions in India's Information Technology Act 2000 which made intermediaries like ISPs (Internet service providers), website hosting companies, search engines, email services, and social networks, liable for their users' content.
Section 79 of the Act held network service providers liable unless they can prove that the offense or contravention was committed without their knowledge or that they had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offense or contravention.
A new Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, passed in December, has however amended the provision of Section 79 to free intermediaries of liability for any third party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by the intermediary.
"By and large intermediaries have been removed from liability," said Pavan Duggal, a cyber law consultant and advocate in India's Supreme Court, in an interview last week.
The onus of proving that the intermediary has not shown due diligence, or that the offense or contravention was done with the connivance of the intermediary now shifts to the individual complainant, Duggal added.
The amendment blocks out effective remedies for ordinary users, as they will not have access to records of the intermediary, and will never be able to prove that the intermediary conspired or abetted in the commission of an offense, Duggal added.
The new law however still requires Google to pull down content that is found objectionable, Shah said.