The Uttarakhand High Court has imposed a cost of Rs. 50000 on Facebook for not filing its reply in a plea seeking framing of guidelines to deal with cases of online extortion.

The bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe has granted four weeks' time to Facebook to file its counter affidavit.

The Court was dealing with a PIL seeking directions to frame guidelines to deal with cases of online extortion.

The petitioner had also sought a 24*7 effective helpline number to deal with cases of online abuse.

The grievance of the petitioner is that someone uploaded a morphed video, containing obscenity involving the petitioner, and the same has also been circulated.

Advocates Abhijay Negi and Snigdha Tiwari appeared for the petitioner whereas Advocate Vikas Bahuguna appeared for Facebook.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 framed by the Central Government obliged the publisher – which would include Facebook to act in terms of the grievance redressal mechanism.

However, Facebook did not act in terms of the said grievance redressal mechanism and the complaint of the petitioner has fallen on deaf ears.

The Court noted that no counter-affidavit was filed by Facebook.

"Prima-facie, it appears that respondent no.6 is not complying with the aforesaid Rules, which are statutory in character and bind respondent no.6.", the Court noted.

Thus the Court imposed costs on Facebook.

"While granting four weeks' time to respondent no.6 to file its counter-affidavit, which should also disclose the steps taken by the said respondent to comply with the aforesaid Rules, we subject to respondent no.6 to costs of Rs.50,000/- out of which, Rs.25,000/- shall be paid to the petitioner and the remaining amount shall be deposited with the Uttarakhand High Court Bar Association.", the Court directed.

The Court has listed the case on February 16, 2023.

Cause Title- Alok Kumar v. Union of India and others

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