Two executives of IndiaMart InterMesh Ltd and a supplier on the platform have been booked in a case in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura for allegedly offering rocks from the Govardhan Hill — which is considered sacred for Hindus — for sale online, reported Times of India. The case has been filed against IndiaMart founder Dinesh Agarwal, director Brajesh Agarwal, and Mathura-based supplier Ankur Agrawal, per Business Standard.
A First-Information_report has been registered under Section 295 (destruction, damage, or defiling any place of worship held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66D (cheating by personation using a computer resource) of the Information Technology Act, the reports said. The case was registered based on a complaint by a local resident. There have reportedly been protests by locals outside Govardhan police station, with demands of arrests for hurting sentiments of devotees.
Mathura Superintendent of Police Shirish Chandra said that stern action would be taken against the company, its CEO, and the supplier for inciting religious feelings by misusing information technology.
Business Standard reported that the website claimed that the rocks were natural and were being sold for Rs. 5,175 per piece.
It’s worth noting that while the FIR claims violation of the IT Act, the law also provides safe harbour to intermediaries such as IndiaMart under Section 79.
Intermediaries are entities which allow sharing of information between users and are not considered as publishers who can control what goes on their platforms. Safe harbour protections, under Section 79, protect the intermediary from liability arising from what their users do on the platform, as long as they conduct their due diligence. Intermediaries also have to remove certain content upon receiving ‘actual knowledge’, which can either be a court order or a directive from the government or government agency, in line with the fundamental right to free speech as under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
Recently, the Karnataka High Court quashed a criminal complaint against Snapdeal and its executives Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal. The plea alleged that Snapdeal and its executives violated the Drugs and Cosmetics Act by allowing the sale of Suhagra 100, a prescription medicine used for erectile dysfunction.
The court said that an intermediary and its executives cannot be held liable for the actions of the sellers, who make use of its marketplace to buy or sell items. Snapdeal’s defence exactly this: that it’s an intermediary with safe harbour protections under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, and had no role in the transaction.