India: Impact Of Shreya Singhal Judgment On Intermediaries


1.1 In the landmark judgment of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India ("Judgment"), the Supreme Court of India ("Court") not only upheld the freedom of speech and expression on the Internet but also narrowed down the interpretation of an equally important provision of the law pertaining to protection of online intermediaries like Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media platforms ("Intermediaries") from liability as provided for under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 ("IT Act").

1.2 With respect to Intermediary, the Court held that Intermediaries are required to take down or block content upon notification – the court has clarified that such takedown will only be upon receipt of an order from a government agency or a court and not at the discretion of the intermediary or on receipt of request by an affected person.


2.1 Among other things, Section 79(3)(b) and the rules notified under Section 79 of the IT Act in 2011 ("Intermediary Rules") an intermediary is required to remove / block access to illegal content upon receiving knowledge of such illegality – this knowledge could be obtained by an intermediary on its own (perhaps through monitoring of the content), or communicated to the intermediary by any affected person, or via notification by the government.

2.2 We understand that in this process, lots of frivolous complaints by individuals were made for removal of even the allowed content, and Intermediaries honour these takedown requests even when they were related to something only very trivial. This hampered the freedom of speech and expression over these social media platforms.

2.3 Further, the provision requiring the Intermediary to use its own judgment to deem content to be illegal effectively made an Intermediary a gatekeeper to the internet, giving an Intermediary the discretion to decide upon whether or not certain content should be blocked. Keeping the consequences in mind, to be on the side of caution, Intermediaries exercised this discretion in favour of removing the content. Thus, even the permitted content suffered removal in this process.

2.4 Moreover, it was not very clear whether the intermediary was supposed to act on any and all takedown notifications (from the government as well as private parties).


3.1 The Court laid down that the provisions of Section 79(3)(b) and the Intermediary Rules have to be read down. Their interpretation has been narrowed down. By doing so, the Court has clarified that the Intermediary must receive a court order / notification from a government agency for removing specific information / content and only then can it be obligated to take down any content.

3.2 Therefore, Intermediaries would not be obligated to undertake any takedown / removal action upon receipt of third parties' complaints (however grave and severe) even if the complaint on its face merits takedown. This in turn means that, any person aggrieved by content on Facebook or Google blogger will have to approach the government or the courts for relief – they can no longer approach the Intermediary directly to take down content.

3.3 However, the question whether such a reading down hampers individual protection as illegal content (that could potentially cause loss or injury) would continue to be viewed in public domain until a court order or administrative order is received, which may take substantial time, is not answered. So the innocent citizens, who have actually been slandered online on any of the Intermediary, will have to follow the long process by approaching the authorities.

3.4 The Judgment also clarified that the court order and/or the notification by the appropriate government or its agency must strictly conform to the subject matters laid down in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Unlawful acts beyond what is laid down in Article 19(2) obviously cannot form any part of Section 79.


4.1 The Judgment has placed limits on private censorship of Intermediaries as a Court order or notification from a government authority or agency would be required prior to removal of content. Also, now there are limits on the invisible censorship of opaque government takedown requests as they must and should adhere to the boundaries set by Article 19(2).

4.2 The Judgment to read down the provisions of Rule 3(4) of the Intermediary Rules and consequently rationalize the benefit of Section 79 of the IT Act to the broad community of Intermediaries is likely to have a significant benefit to Indian companies whose business model is based on the internet.

4.3 It is also contended that by this Judgment, the Court has killed the due diligence obligation of an Intermediaries in India to a great extent, as now Intermediaries instead of being diligent enough in conducting due diligence pertaining to the offensive matter on their websites, will wait for a government notification or order to remove them from their site.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.