PM should cancel proposed meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, says Govindacharya

Posted by SHAILENDRA AGARWAL on 02:32 with No comments
Ahead of the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to India this week, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member K. N. Govindacharya has written a letter addressed to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to cancel his proposed meeting with the Facebook CEO.

Govindacharya is fighting a case in the Delhi High Court asking companies like Facebook, Google to establish their servers India, and on business practices of these companies in the country.

Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly visiting India this week “to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and take part in a summit to find ways to get more people online–and probably signed up for his website,” according to WallStreetJournal.

Govindacharya alleges that social media companies like Facebook use ‘illegal business practices’ in India, which should be addressed by the Indian government.  He requests PM not only to cancel his proposed meeting, but also to ensure that facebook fulfills legal requirements in India before any agreement of Indian government with Facebook.

DailyBhaskar has a copy of this letter addressed to PM with a copy marked to the National Security Adviser in the current government requesting PM Modi to take action on preventing data going outside India in wake of national security and covering companies like Facebook in the tax ambit.

Please note that in the case W.P.(C) 3672/2012 and CM Nos. 7709/12, 12197/12, 6888/13, K.N. Govindacharya Vs Union of India, the court in an order dated 30 October 2013 said an email policy has to be finalized and allowed "some more time to consult all Ministries before an proper E-mail Policy is finally put in place."

This is important since the Google mail generally used to share documents routs the emails through its servers based outside India, raising security concerns. READ: India's own Email Network to expand to 5 million govt. employees by March 2015

This week he also raised concerns related to the deal with Japanese city of Kyoto to develop Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi. He told to the Economic Times “comparing the two cities is not proper as they are very different in nature. This is where the direction of Kashi's development itself has gone wrong.”

Here are some of the important issues related to Facebook, Govindacharya lists out in his letter to the PM.

1. Not paying taxes worth thousand crores

Facebook has more than 10 crore users in India, which makes it, the social network’s second biggest market in the world. Conservative estimates indicate that Facebook is not paying taxes to the Indian government worth 120 crores.

According to this letter, Govindacharya claims that the UPA Government filed an affidavit on the 10th May 2013 in the court in which it said that the service tax should be collected from the Indian users. But in this direction an action is yet to be taken by the Service Tax Office under the Finance Ministry in India.

Though the Modi government announced Finance Bill 2014 extending the fabric of taxation to Internet companies too, in an affidavit filed on 17th September 2014, Facebook and few other companies have been given a clean chit on this. (Please note that under the Finance Bill 2014, Sale of Space or time on online, mobile ads- Earlier service tax was applicable on only broadcast media. Now service tax will be levied on advertisements on Internet and mobile, according to TaxGuru. Also refer to this letter on changes in Union Budget 2014-2015)

He mentions that based on his request to stop huge amount of use of black money and getting social networks in the ambit of Representation of People Act in October 2013, The Election Commission issued instructions with respect to use of Social Media in Election Campaigning. Read the instructions issued on 25 October 2013 here.

He further raises the concern that Finance Ministry is yet to take steps in the direction to control the flow and exchange of foreign funds.

Govindacharya requests PM to take strict action in the matter.

2. Questioning the basis of Mark Zuckerberg’s India visit

The second important issue raised by the former Sangh ideologue is the related to the Grievance Officer appointed by Facebook, for India. Note that the Grievance officer is located in Ireland.

He points out that according to the affidavit filed by Facebook in the High Court of Delhi, Facebook Inc. is based in US and it does not have any office, representative, or business activities in India, and hence it is not eligible to file any kind of service taxes in India.

Facebook India, which is the company based in India, also says it is a separate entity not related to Facebook Inc. US - it is not a representative of the US based Facebook neither is the India office the office of Facebook Inc. US.

On this basis Govindacharya questions about who is organizing Facebook CEO’s visit in India and which company will implement Facebook’s support to the government on government initiatives.

Please note that in July this year Facebook Chief Operating Officer (COO) visited India and met PM Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communications & Information Technology and Law and Justice. After a meeting with Sandberg the Minister Shankar Prasad posted, “Prime Minister also wants #Facebook to play greater role in running a nationwide awareness campaign for cleanliness and promoting peace in region,” on his Facebook page.

Govindacharya questions, “if people from Facebook India can organize the visit of Facebook CEO in India, why under Indian laws a Grievance Officer has been appointed in Ireland?"

According to Govindacharya, thousands of young women and children are becoming victims of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, drugs, rave parties via the social networks. He requests that Internet companies should be asked to appoint Grievance Officers in India.

3. Why is there a need of e-signature for filing a complaint?

Next issue raised in this letter is the matter related to the need of e-signatures when sending a complaint to Facebook. While Facebook does not require a user to sigh in using e-signature for a free Facebook account, why is there a need to sign a complaint using e-signatures in case a user wants to lodge a complaint with the social network.

Facebook does not allow children below 13 years of age to open an account on the social network, but it does allow above this age limit to open an account. For children between the age of 13 years and 18 years, filing a complaint via email is impossible since in India digital signature could be awarded to people who are above the age of 18 years.

"Please note that Indian law do not permit to us to contract with a minor person (minor is a person who has not completed 18 years of age)" e-Mundra says about issung digital signatures in India. Look at the e-mudhra terms of service page which is a licensed Certifying Authority under the Information Technology Act of India. In India Digital Signature Certificates are issued by the Controller of Certifying Authority and authenticates identity electronically of a person.

Govindacharya points out that facebook is violating the rights of a child to file a complaint with this mandatory provision.

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