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5 ministries get HC notice on PIL against websites

The Delhi high court has issued notices to five central government ministries on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former BJP ideologue Govindacharya seeking recovery of taxes from various social networking websites, including Facebook India and Google India, from their income in India. A bench of Justices BD Ahmed and RV Easwar sought response from Finance Ministry, Home Ministry, Law and Justice Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Department of Personnel and Training. These ministries have been given six weeks’ time for filing their replies. The high court had earlier also issued notice to the central government, Facebook India and Google India.

The PIL has urged from the court to direct the government to recover all past and present direct and indirect tax demands arising from business income from Indian operations of these social networking websites. It has also sought directions to the central government and the social networking websites to ensure proper accounting compliances as per RBI guidelines and a direction to ensure safety of the data of 50 million Indian users, which were transferred to the USA and was being used for commercial gains in violation of the right to privacy.

Govindacharya, in his PIL, has said: ‘Facebook gross revenue for previous year was approximately 37 billion USD but they are not paying due taxes on their Indian operations as per the provisions of Double Tax Avoidance Agreement and the government is not taking any action to safeguard the national interest and the sovereignty of the country.’

The PIL has also sought directions to the central government to impose penalty on social networking sites and other internet companies for non-verification of users and to recover damages for causing huge loss to the government and the Indian economy due to anonymous users’ illegal operations through such sites.

The PIL says that five to six per cent accounts on social networking sites were fake or being operated by anonymous users due to non-authentication of details by the company before the opening of accounts and the country is facing highest security risks of attacks from anonymous hackers operating through such fake profiles.

The petition has listed the alleged violations of various terms by the websites and has sought a direction to the central government to ensure that government officers do not use social networking websites through government computers as they may pose threat to sensitive data and national computer network.
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