New Delhi: In the midst of a debate on monitoring content, a Delhi court has restrained social- networking sites including Facebook, Google and Youtube from webcasting any "anti-religious" or "anti-social" content promoting hatred or communal disharmony.

Additional Civil Judge Mukesh Kumar, in an ex-parte order, directed the social networking websites to remove the objectionable content in the form photographs, videos or text which might hurt religious sentiments.

The court on Tuesday passed the order on a civil suit filed by Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi through advocate Santosh Pandey who had also submitted the printouts of the contents.

The order comes amid a raging controversy over monitoring the content on Internet and of those websites depending on user generated contents, which arose after reports that Union Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal had asked the social networking websites to "screen" the contents.

The court, which entertained the petition, issued summons to 22 social networking websites asking them to respond to its notice by December 24 and directed the court staff to keep all the documents and CD provided by the petitioner in a sealed cover.

"I have gone through the record carefully wherein the plaintiff has also filed a CD containing all the defamatory articles and photographs. In my considered opinion the photographs shown by the plaintiff having content of defamation and derogation against the sentiments of every community.

"In such circumstances I am of the view that plaintiff has a prima facie case in his favour. Moreover, the balance of convenience is also against the defendants (websites) and in favour of the plaintiff.

"Moreover, if the defendant will not be directed to remove the defamatory articles and contents from the social networking websites, not only the plaintiff but every individual who is having religious sentiments would suffer irreparable loss and injury and cannot be compensated in terms of money," the judge said.

The court said on perusal of the documents provided by the plaintiff there was apprehension of mischief in the public if the alleged objectionable contents are allowed to be displayed.

"Accordingly in view of the above discussion and taking in consideration the facts and circumstances and nature of the suit filed by the plaintiff where everyday these social networking websites are being used by the public at large and there is very apprehension of mischief in the public, the defendants are restrained from publishing the defamatory articles shown by the plaintiff and contained in the CD filed by the plaintiff immediately on service of this order and notice," the court said.

Defendants (websites) are further directed to remove the content from their social networking websites, the court said.

(Agencies)