Cyber Defamation Case for Google Map Review in India

Cyber Defamation Case for Google Maps Review in India


This post is for public interest and help for all local guides there that giving review in Google Map can lead you to legal trouble. Following is a case study for all of you. So be cautious and have all the facts before writing a review on Google Map. Anyone with vested interest can sue you legally for your review.

I am level 6 local guide since 2011 with 1000s of reviews all across India and 1000s of pictures having millions of view on Google Maps. Few month ago i gave a review to one location called Arya Vihar Ashram. Most of the facts were true to my knowledge and got from their website, Locals and position of Ashram on Map. Here is link https://goo.gl/maps/sK2LhNA7vW12

One day i recieved a legal notice from Ashram through my employer. I was shocked as i gave review in my personal capacity from my personal id then why notice served to my employers door. So please see the detailed notice sent to me with CEO of Google, and my reply. This blog post is for help of public only and i have put everything as such and without changing anything.

Here is my original review with update while writing this blog:


This luxury Ashram is run by Priya Patel and Father by rampant encroachment on Ganges river bank as you can see in google photos. How the ashram has been setup in the course of river. Interestingly these people fight for saving the holiness of Ganges on other hand the sewage of their ashram is going directly in to the river. They run herbal soap making business from the Ashram. These are the facts which can be verified from their official website. Update on dec16: I got legal notice for cyber defamation by ashram for above review. Which I appropriately replied with mentioning of foreign funding violation by ashram due to which it's registration was cancelled by Govt of India in 2012. Only 2 NGO in uttarakhand were banned for foreign funding for not following law of land and Sri arya trust is one of them as per fcra website. The father mentioned in review is person called G a fatherly figure shown in their site. I could have given thought to turned down the review, had the ashram requested me politely. Since they sent legal notice to my employer address so I have to leave it as such and defend my self under law of land. Public is requested to check the facts for their own good as ashram has accepted in legal notice that proximity with river had caused damage to ashram in past. Get detail at my blog vinodkotiya.blogspot.in
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Here is my Final Reply to Arya Vihar Ashram through my advocate:

By Speed Post/Registered AD/Courier/email
05 October 2016
Without prejudice. All rights reserved

P. V. Dinesh, Advocate
14 Todarmal Road,
Bengali Market
New Delhi - 110001
Email: pvdinesh@gmail.com

Reply to legal notice by email and registered post

Your Client: Arya Vihar Ashram, Uttarkashi - 249193
My Client: Mr. Vinod Kotiya, New Delhi-110014 email : vinodkotiya@gmail.com

Dear Sir,

My client has forwarded me your notice dated 17.09.2016 addressed to him on
behalf of Arya Vihar Ashram, with instructions to reply thereto as under:

My client deems it unnecessary at this stage to enter upon needless controversy
with respect to each allegation made in your said notice but reserves its right to do
so, at the appropriate time and before an appropriate forum, should the need arise.
Suffice it for the purpose of this communication to state, that except as hereinafter
admitted, each allegation made by you against my client is denied as though herein
specifically set-forth and traversed.

 My client is an avid and conscious traveller as well as a level 4 guide at Google
Maps with excellent credentials. Google Maps is an application which, alongside
other things, facilitates and encourages rating and reviewing of places and
locations with a view to aid travellers and tourists to make informed choices and
decisions.

My client has actively been involved in sharing his knowledge and opinion using
well researched and fairly assessed reviews and ratings for places and locations on
Google maps for the past five years. Accordingly he has, in public interest,
submitted the reviews of over 160 places on the basis of his personal assessment
of the locations and facts available on the public domain. In addition to the same,
he has, wherever possible, made additions of places and business listings as well
as suggested corrections with respect to wrong routes and other such
discrepancies for the greater good of the public. His reviews have also been cited in
mainstream publications such as the Dainik Bhaskar which only cement his
credibility. In addition, my client also maintains a personal travel blog which intends
to provide information, guidance, reviews and GPS locations of the places that my
client has travelled and visited.

At the outset, it is vehemently denied that the rating and review for Arya Vihar
Ashram was intentionally and knowingly authored to defame your client and harm
its reputation as has been envisaged in your notice. The said review is a fair and
true assessment of affairs and all comments and opinions are a factual

 representation based on logical and reasonable inferences drawn from the data
provided on the website of the said Ashram and other information already available
on the public domain. This fact has also been reiterated in the above-mentioned
review. The review does in no way harm the reputation of your client in as much as
the review relies on facts already in the public domain through your client’s website.

Further it is also denied that the review had any malicious intent attached to it. On
the contrary, all reviews by my client intend to serve the people by protecting their
interests and are authored with good faith and utmost integrity while keeping the
public interest in mind. Further, the assessment in the review and the ensuing rating
to Arya Vihar Ashram, being devoid of any malice, is protected by the right to
freedom of speech and expression.

The imputation which flows from the allegations set out in Para 8 of your notice,
that my client has ‘intentionally posted the statement for defamation out of
vindictiveness, malice and for personal gain’ is based only on conjectures and
surmises and therefore is completely incorrect. It may be noted that although my
client is employed with the NTPC, the ratings and reviews provided by him on
Google Maps are done in his personal capacity as a Google Maps local guide. It is
also pertinent to note that all reviews and ratings by my client have been done
using his personal user id i.e. vinodkotiya@gmail.com. It is palpable that you have
intentionally dragged NTPC by connecting two completely unrelated issues and
have thereby defamed the esteemed organisation to protect your own interests.

 Needless to say that at this point the allegations with respect to defamation out of
vindictiveness, malice and personal gain set out in your communication to my client
vide the notice are thus denied. Having said that, and inspite of your letter, we have
advised our client for the moment not to engage with you on the merits of each
allegation, but to reserve its rights to do so if need arises in future. Views expressed
by my client in responding to the allegations set out in Paras 10, 11, 12 and 13 of
the notice would necessarily touch upon the Ashram’s several unsustainable
activities in an ecologically sensitive area as well as foreign funding violations and
will therefore, not do your client any good.

It is of consequence to note that in addition to falsely implicating my client’s
employer, NTPC, your notice to my client was also addressed to his employer’s
official headquarters, thereby subjecting him to deliberate harassment and mental
trauma in his place of work. It is also pertinent to note that no efforts were made to
direct the said notice to my client’s residential address. At this juncture, you are
liable to pay my client and adequately compensate him for loss of reputation at his
place of work as well as the ensuing harassment and mental trauma.

My client would like to state that he will not apologise for showing integrity and
honesty in authoring a fair comment for the greater good of the people and thereby
refuses to delete the review in question. Consequently, my client denies any liability
towards you for any damages as claimed in the notice. Further, my client would like
to call upon you to withdraw your legal notice dated 17.09.2016 immediately. As
such any action that your client may take, as threatened in your notice or otherwise,

 shall be resisted entirely at your risks and costs. Please take notice and advise your
Client accordingly.

Yours faithfully,

Dhruv Banerji
Advocate.

Here is legal notice of Arya Vihar Ashram sent to my employers doorstep
(I used OCR tool to retrieve data from the hard copy so some spelling mistakes may be their):



             P.V.DINESH
         Advocate, Supreme Court of India





To‘                     Date: 17.09.2016


1. Mr. Vinod Kotiya
C/0 NTPC Limited
NTPC Bhawan
SCOPE complex, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road. 
New Delhi - 110003


2) The CEO
Google India Pvt Limited
Old Madras Road, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Floors 
Bengaluru, 560 016- India


            Legal Notice by E-mail & Reg AD 


Under instruction from my client Sri Arya Trust (Arya Vihar Ashram) situated 
in Uttarkashi-249193,Uttarakhand, India, represented through the Trustee 
Dr.Meeta Khilnani, I am serving you this legal notice in view of the highly 
defamatory and offensive statement published on the Google Map about `Arya 
Vihar Ashram' which is punishable under the provisions of Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and Section 500 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 ,

1. The addressee No. 1 among you, Mr. Vinod Kotiya, has authored and 
posted/pinned the following defamatory statement on google map as against 
the location of my client, the message reads as;

"This luxury Ashram is run by Priya Patel and Father by rampant 
encroachment on Ganges river bank as you can see in google photos. How 
the ashram has been setup in the course of river. Interestingly these people 
fight for saving the holiness of Ganges on other hand the sewage of their 
ashram is going directly in to the river. They run herbal soap making business 
from the Ashram. These are the facts which can be verified from their official 
website.
The URL of the above false statement is;
"htt s://www oo ie. co. in/ # -• oo le+ma s+iridia+a a+vihar+ashrarn+Uttara 
khand&Ird=0x39088b366f595649:0xe1299387ea967c0al ," 
2. The addressee No. 2, GOOGLE, has published the offensive and defamatory 
content on its website Google map ) thus, equally culpable of publishing the 
defamatory and offensive statement. 
3. I have instruction to state that you, the addressee No.1 intentionally and 
knowingly to defame my client, has authored and published the above wrong, and 
malicious statement on the website owned and managed by the Addressee No.2 . 
Your imputation has directly and indirectly lowered the reputation of my client 
in the estimation of general public. Please be noted that, by such publication, 
you have committed the offence of Defamation and also violated the provisions 
of the Information Technology Act. 
4. Please be noted that 'Arya Vihar Ashram', established by Sri Arya Trust is a 
spiritual organization located in Uttarkashi. 'Arya Vihar Ashram' is a 
spiritual community that has been established since over 20 years as a place of 
Sadhana where the objective is to "reach, realize, unfold, manifest the divine 
and bring it to its dynamic fulfillment through a complete development at all 
levels" 
5. 'Arya Vihar Ashram' has never polluted Ganga in any manner and the members 
of the Ashram are always intensively & actively involved for the cause of 
protection & conservation of the Ganga & environment which has got much 
appreciation from various organizations, parliamentarians and people from 
different parts of the country. 
6. Arya Vihar Ashram is a highly respectable organisation & the members are 
respected & reputed people in society. Dr. Meeta Khilnani, is a Geophysicist by 
profession and a member of Ganga Ahvaan, Jodhpur Chapter. Ganga Ahvaan movement 
is dedicated to the sacred cause of protection of holy river Ganga against the 
combined onslaught of mindless & reckless development initiatives by the 
Uttarakhand State & Government of India. 
7. Ms, Priyadarshni Patel. President of Sri Arya Trust, `Arya Vihar Ashram' is 
the founder member of Ganga Ahvaan Movement. Ms. Priyadarshini Patel, is 
intensively involved in researching and analyzing the adverse impact of the 
dams on the Ganga river from Gangotri to Uttarkashi and also downstream & in 
other valleys. Dr. Meeta Khilnani and Ms.Priyadarshini Patel are working for 
the cultural & environmental conservation of the Ganga besides other cultural & 
environmental issues, and are highly reputed and respected in society. 
8. You, the addressee No.1, purposefully and wilfully has published blatant 
lies as you well knew that my client was in the forefront of a public movement 
that led to the cancellation of several hydropower projects in the Gangotri 
valley, one of which was commissioned to the NTPC, your employer, besides 
subsequently setting up of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone & NGRBA for its 
conservation. These projects were cancelled via decision taken by the then 
Government. You have intentionally posted the aforementioned derogatory 
defamatory statement against my client in order to defame my client out of 
vindictiveness, malice & for your own personal gains. 
9. The defamatory publication has been brought to the attention of my client by 
followers of the Ashram who happen to browse the location of the Ashram from 
their respective places in Delhi, Ghaziabad & other parts of the country, who 
are all shocked and disturbed with the defamatory & false statements therein. 
The Ashram and Trustees have also received intimation from the general public 
and others connected to the Ashram who have seen the site & were distressed 
with the sheer falsehood portrayed by you. Numerous other people, unknown to my 
clients who have browsed the site could surely develop a bad impression about 
my client as is intended by publishing such derogatory lies. 
10. By accusing the Ashram of rampant encroachment on Ganga river bank you have 
made utterly false, unfounded & highly misleading accusation to deliberately 
show the Ashram in a bad light. Arya Vihar Ashram is located solely & entirely 
on land purchased from the local villagers via registered sale deeds. The land 
was entirely privately owned and purchased legally by the Ashram 
11. Your statement about Ashram being set up in the course of the river is a 
deliberate lie. 
12. Your defamatory allegation regarding the sewage of the Ashram going 
directly in the river is also an absolute falsehood with the fact being 
entirely opposite. The Ashram has several septic tanks for the sewage treatment 
& absolutely no sewage enters the river from the very inception of the Ashram. 
Infact the Ashram takes extra care to maintain pristine environment & sanctity 
of the Himalayas & the Ganga. 
13. The statement that this is a luxury Ashram is false. It is made with 
malafide intention, and calculated to harm the reputation of my client, thereby 
defaming my client among the general public, The Ashram has faced a severe 
disaster in 2002 cloudburst wherein nearly half of the Ashram land and 
properties/ buildings were washed away. Thereafter, Sadhaks gradually rebuilt 
Ashram under severest conditions possible. Visitors and some Sadhaks are still 
at times living in tents and the threat of disasters such as 2013 flood is ever 
present. By such false preposterous accusations you have hurt the sentiments of 
all the Sadhaks of the Ashram. The Ashram is engaged honest, legal activities 
for example making of the handmade soaps for self reliance which are 
eco-friendly high quality produce, for the public and is highly appreciated all 
over the country. Therefore, your statement is utter distortion of truth and is 
made with a deliberate intention, to harm my client and done with a view to 
discredit future initiatives, work & activities by my client by spreading 
canards & falsehoods, 
14. The derogatory statements about the Ashram and your comment that it is 
being "run by Priya Patel & father' is a blatant lie. Ms. Priyadarshini Patel's 
Father passed away in the year 1973. Thus this lie has been made to 
intentionally hurt her sentiments & further, the derogatory remark about the 
Ashram being "run" by Priya Patel & Father or any individual is highly 
objectionable as the Ashram is not "run" by anyone but as a place of spiritual 
Sadhana, our activities are guided by the teachings of our respected Teachers & 
Founder and not as a hotel or family business as was the disrespectful 
implication. 
15. By way of the defamatory statement that "facts can be verified from their 
official website", you have extended your falsehood to Ashram's official 
website. The Ashram's official website in no way supports any of your malicious 
& false claims, which are deliberate statements to achieve your nefarious 
designs. 
16. Your comments were intended to falsify and deliberately harm the reputation 
of Arya Vihar Ashram, the Teachers, the Sadhaks & its activities. They were 
directly intended to lower the moral character & discredit the activities of 
the Ashram. Moreover, your attack was of a personal & malicious character. 
Further it was also personally directed to Ms. Priyadarshini Patel to offend & 
discredit her reputation. 
17. Since you, the Addressee No.1, being an employee of NTPC that was involved 
in the construction of hydro power project in Uttarakashi Valley which was 
opposed by the organization headed by Ms. Priyadarshini Patel and the Ashram 
for the purpose of preservation of the sacredness of the Ganga and protection 
of the environment, you have on purpose published the defamatory statement on 
the Google map about the Ashram with malicious intentions to cause harm, 
degrade and discredit my client its trustees & its activities, fully knowing 
that the said defamatory statement will lower the reputation of the Ashram 
among the general public. 
18. Your publication of defamatory statement is made with malicious intention 
to degrade and defame the Ashram and its followers among the general public, 
which amounts to an offence punishable under the provisions of Information 
technology Act, 2000 and Section 500 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 My client 
reserves the right to initiate civil & other legal proceedings against you 
both, in addition to the criminal proceedings. 
19. Even though compensation in terms of money will not be adequate for the 
loss sustained to my client, as a warning to wrongdoers in future, you are 
liable to pay to my client an adequate monetary compensation, which will be 
calculated during the course of proceedings, to compensate for loss of 
reputation and harassment sustained on account of your defamatory statement. 
You, both are further required to remove the defamatory post forthwith. 
20. In view of the above, my client hereby holds you liable for adequate 
monetary compensation, and also call upon you to remove the defamatory post 
from the website. We have instructions to initiate civil as well as criminal 
proceedings against you for which you and your properties shall me liable 
including the costs and consequences thereof. The Addressee No.1 & 2 shall be 
jointly and severally liable for their actions. 
22. A copy of the present legal notice is being kept at my office for my 
records and for initiating criminal or civil or other legal remedies available 
under law. 
23. Please Take Notice Accordingly.  
Yours Since P V Dinesh 
14. Todarmal Road, Bengali Market, New Delhi-110001 Phone: 91-11-23323714, 
23323715, 23323716 pvdinesh@gmail.com 


So before anyone else sue me for this blog post, i would again like to clarify that intention to post this is only for awareness of general public so that they must be cautious for their online activity. I would like to update this post if any of the reader has some info of similar cases in India and abroad and what was the outcome.

Comments

Parikshit said…
Dear Vinod,

Sorry to read about the harassment faced by you. What is the present status of the case?

Regards
Parikshit Dubey

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