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Delhi HC Warns Domain Name Registrars to Comply with Domain Blocking Orders if they Want to Operate in India

In a hearing, the Delhi HC stated that it will ask the IT Ministry to block Domain Name Registrars that fail to comply with the court’s domain blocking orders.

The IT Ministry will be asked to block Domain Name Registrars that fail to comply with domain blocking orders issued by Indian courts, Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna held in a suo motu case regarding trademark infringing websites with similar names appearing online, Bar and Bench reported.

The Bench added that it will draft guidelines to be followed by Domain Name Registrars, and the IT Ministry, to address these websites, which are often involved in scamming consumers. “If you want to do business in India, we will lay down some guidelines and you will be bound by it,” the Bench observed.

Domain Name Registrar GoDaddy also appeared in court, admitting that it was “one of the DNRs who are not complying” and that it is not “running away”. The Bench permitted it to file an impleadment application in the case, which will be heard next on January 9th, 2024.

Not to be forgotten: Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court directed the IT Ministry to “take action” against five domain registrars that were non-compliant with India’s platform regulation rules, the IT Rules, 2021. All five were partially blocked in March, and were later unblocked. One of the registrars, Dynadot, was once again inaccessible earlier this month. The company confirmed that it’s been partially blocked in India, but did not clarify whether this was linked to the blocking order issued earlier in the year.

Are Domain Name Registrars behaving like intermediaries?: In the present case, the Delhi High Court further observed that Domain Name Registrars suggest alternative domain names that are similar to original domain owners, which can deceive consumers. Further, Domain Name Registrars negotiate over domains, charging fees for these services. Doing so means they cannot be categorised as intermediaries under the IT Act, 2000, the Court observed. Intermediaries merely host content.

The Court also questioned if the National Internet Exchange of India can be considered an intermediary.

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