Gospel for Asia's and Believers' Church's Lawsuit Against Google and Facebook Moved to District Court

Inexplicably, K.P. Yohannan is still claiming that Gospel for Asia and Believers’ Church won a defamation lawsuit which named Google and Facebook as defendants among many others. On the GFA website, Yohannan claims

The High Court thus issued a verdict, directing networking sites to remove and stop uploading any false information about Gospel for Asia and our various ministries. In addition, the High Court also had those who posted this misinformation arrested and the material they uploaded removed.

Yohannan’s web posting links to two articles in the Indian press (here and here) as evidence for his claims. However, as I pointed out previously, the articles don’t support Yohannan since they do not describe a verdict. Instead, the press articles report the initiation of a lawsuit against Google, Facebook and many others by Gospel for Asia in India and Believers’ Church. The case has not been, and probably won’t be, heard by the High Court.
Last week, the High Court transferred the case to District Court. Here is the court order:
GFALawsuitFacebook
 
A source in India told me that the case was sent to District Court (Saket District Court in Delhi) because the amount of damages claimed was too low to trigger the High Court’s involvement.  By statute, cases under 2 crore (about $300,000) are sent to a lower court.
A search of the High Court record reveals no injunction in the case so it is puzzling that Yohannan would claim a verdict when the case hasn’t been tried.
Here is another situation where what GFA says is at odds with information that is publicly available. I call on Yohannan to retract his claims or provide an explanation supported by evidence which can be verified.
UPDATE: A reader sent along a December 3, 2012 email sent by GFA (click the link to see the image) with K.P. Yohannan’s article “A New Type of Persecution” article as an update from K.P. Yohannan. It is the same as the article on the website and was touted to donors and mailing list members.  Apparently, this “news” was intended to help raise funds.

Gospel for Asia Still Suing Google and Facebook Even Though K.P. Yohannan Claimed Victory in 2012

A comment at the Phoenix Preacher blog tipped me off to the following story.
In December 2012, Gospel for Asia CEO, K.P. Yohannan, wrote an article trumpeting what Yohannan said was a positive verdict in a lawsuit filed in the Delhi High Court.* Here is how Yohannan described the case and circumstances leading up to it.

A Verdict that Vindicated

Although we never discussed this publicly until now, I have wondered if some of our friends like you might have become confused by this negative media. But what could we do? The Lord knew our hearts, and it would be up to Him to defend us. So we sought Him. We prayed. We fasted. And slowly, step by step the Lord went before us.

At first, we had no idea that all the false information out there was originating from one source or what we could do about it. Gradually, we were able to understand what was happening, and last year, we learned that we could appeal to the government of India and to the High Court in Delhi to look into these cyber attacks on us—which we did. Then, during this last year, various governmental departments investigated Gospel for Asia’s activity in detail to see if any of these accusations were true.

I am grateful to the Lord that what was meant for evil, God used for good. After studying us, these departments determined that we were one of the most upright groups in the country, truly improving the nation. The High Court thus issued a verdict, directing networking sites to remove and stop uploading any false information about Gospel for Asia and our various ministries. In addition, the High Court also had those who posted this misinformation arrested and the material they uploaded removed.

God Came to Our Rescue

I thank God for His grace, mercy and answer to our prayers. He came to our rescue and defended us.
Because you have been with us on this journey, I wanted to let you know what has transpired and give you the opportunity to hear the truth from us, especially if any of this misinformation ever caused doubt in your mind. Below are some links to articles about the verdict from the Indian High Court in Delhi.
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/hc-notice-to-google-facebook-on-churchs-plea/1037044/
http://www.business-standard.com/generalnews/news/hc-notice-to-google-facebookchurchs-plea/84729/

That’s Not What the Articles Say
Yohannan’s description makes it appear that the Delhi High Court issued a verdict in 2012 which led to removal of articles from the Internet and the arrest of perpetrators of defamation. However, the articles Yohannan provided contradict his story. Both links lead to stories which describe a lawsuit filed by GFA and Believers’ Church against Google, Facebook and some unnamed other defendants. The first one is dated November 27, 2012 and says:

The Delhi High Court today sought the replies of various social networking sites including Google and Facebook to a plea for removal of “defamatory and derogatory” articles against a church and an NGO from their sites.

Issuing notice to M/s Google India Pvt Ltd, its subsidiaries – You Tube, Blogger, Blogspot.in and also to Facebook, Justice Valmiki Mehta sought their replies by January 7, next year.

The court issued the notice on a joint plea of Gospel for Asia (a city-based NGO) and Believers Church, which alleged that “there are several malicious contents with intent to defame and destroy the reputation of entire organisation (church) including it founder Metropolitan Bishop Dr K P Yohannan and Rev Fr Daniel Varghese, Diocesan Secretary of the church.”

“Certain persons with vested interest are continuously trying to malign the reputation of the organisation by uploading defamatory contents on internet.

“The Google and other intermediaries are liable to restrict these contents as per Section 79 (3)(a) of the Information Technology Act since,” said the complaint filed through counsel Deepak Prakash.

The civil suit also cited the statements of former presidents A P J Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Devi Singh Patil appreciating the work of the organisation and claimed that “different government agencies verified and appreciated the work of the organisation on different occasions and stated that there is no negative remark about them from any corner.”

The plea claimed that the organisation is serving in more than 13 countries with its charity missions reaching lakhs of poor and downtrodden people and improving their standard of living which also means to earn a good life.

“It is carrying out welfare and development activities all over India. It implements projects especially in remote and rural areas and city slums, by its nation building project and providing adequate possibilities to down-trodden and needy to become healthy, productive and functional citizen of this country irrespective of caste, creed and gender,” the plea said.

GFA lauded themselves in their plea to the court, but there was no verdict given in the case. Instead, the judge gave Google, Facebook and others until January, 2013 to answer the suit: “Justice Valmiki Mehta sought their replies by January 7, next year.” According to this article, there was no verdict. The defendants were given a chance to answer, and initially those responses were due after Yohannan wrote his article.  The second article provides the same information and nothing about a verdict. 
This case was also covered at the time by Christian Today in an article published November 30, 2012. In all three articles, it is very clear that no verdict had been given by the court. In fact, the first action by GFA and BC against Google and Facebook was filed on November 21, 2012 in the Delhi High Court.
The Case is Still Active
The most recent development in the case was filed today.  In other words, this case that K.P. Yohannan said was God rescuing GFA with a “verdict that vindicated” has not been settled as of today. The next action in the case is slated for December 7, 2015.

IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI +
CS(OS) 3297/2012
GOSPEL FOR ASIA & OTHERS
….. Plaintiffs Through Mr. Deepak Prakash, Advocate
versus GOOGLE INC & OTHERS
….. Defendant Through Mr. Angad Singh Dugal, Advocate for defendant no.1 Mr. Akhil Anand and Ms. Richa Srivastava, Advocates for defendant no.4
CORAM:
SH. ANIL KUMAR SISODIA (DHJS), JOINT REGISTRAR (JUDICIAL) O R D E R
30.07.2015
IA No. 22211/2014
Defendants have not filed reply to the application, except defendant no.4, despite last and final opportunity given on the last date of hearing. In these facts and circumstances, the opportunity to file by other defendants stands closed.
Put up for arguments on the application on 7th December, 2015.
ANIL KUMAR SISODIA (DHJS) JOINT REGISTRAR (JUDICIAL)
JULY 30, 2015 savita

It appears that Google did not file a reply to the plaintiffs. Facebook did file one.  I have contacted GFA’s lawyer, Google’s and Facebook’s lawyer and Google’s and Facebook’s press contacts about the case with no answers as yet. UPDATE 7/31 – I reached Angad Singh Dugal, advocate for Google in the case. He confirmed that the case is still active and added that Google has filed a reply in defense.
What is clear is from the court record (you can see everything available on the Delhi High Court website) is that this case has been continued, dragging on for nearly three years, and no verdict has been rendered.
Is K.P. Yohannan unaware of these facts? Or is this story like his denial of followers kissing his ring?
In any case, Yohannan’s faulty narrative about this case provides another reason why GFA should become more transparent and address pastors’ and donors’ questions about cash smuggling, unaccounted for funds, and numerous others concerns.
 
 
 
*High Courts in India appear to be like our federal District Courts. This case was filed in the Delhi High Court.

Has Martin Ssempa’s Facebook page been removed?

It seems like a distinct possibility.

Over the weekend, various Facebook users (e.g. here) reported that Martin Ssempa’s Facebook page had been removed. Sure enough, it is not available.

 I contacted Facebook and asked if any statement could be made about the removal. Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten wrote to say he could not comment on specific users but in response to my inquiry said:

We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to reports of inappropriate content and behavior.  Specifically, we’re sensitive to content that includes bullying, pornography, direct statements of hate, and actionable threats of violence. Facebook is highly self-regulating, and users can and do report content that they find questionable or offensive.  When reported content is removed by one of our professional investigators, a warning is sent to the person who posted it. In rare cases when a person repeatedly violates our policies, we may disable that person’s account.

If Ssempa’s page has been removed, he would have an opportunity to appeal. Axten explained:

We always provide the ability for people whose accounts have been disabled to contact us to appeal the decision.

I am guessing videos like this one now removed from the Facebook page pushed the “direct statements of hate” button.

It is possible that the removal is a glitch such as effected the Facebook group which opposes the AHB earlier this year or that perhaps Rev. Ssempa did it himself. However, given the reaction of those who attend his church, it may indeed be an action of Facebook.

Ugandan news source reports on Anti-Homosexuality Bill opposition

The UG Pulse reported this morning on the Facebook group “Speak Out Against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.”

Uganda Health News: Activists use facebook to fight Uganda Homosexual bill

Ultimate Media

As the debate over the proposed Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 gains momentum, activists against the bill have launched a facebook group to decampaign the proposed legislation.

The facebook group which was formed by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College had by Saturday Morning reached a membership of 1,130.

Throckmorton says multi-faith, multi-national group of people include mainly evangelical Christians around the world.

Dr. Throckmorton says although many members of the group do not approve of homosexuality, they believe Christianity teaches freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.

Throckmorton says they believe obedience to the gospel which pleases Christ comes from free choice and not from coercion of the state through laws such as the one proposed against homosexuality.

But the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo insists that the government has a duty to introduce and enforce laws against acts of homosexuality or same sex relationships which he says are immoral and against the order of nature.

Click through here to join the group.

Franklin County (OH) removes voter registration information from website

UPDATE: The website is back up. The BOE says there are about 200 absentee ballots they are examining at this moment. The reason the information was removed was due to some concerns that peace officers had about their information being available to the public – an legal reason to shield that information. In the effort to remove several addresses, all were removed temporarily.
On Saturday, I posted about Vote Today Ohio leaders who live out of state but registered to vote in Franklin County, Ohio.
However, if you go now to the Franklin County website to look up registration information you will find that the address and other poling location information associated with registrants have been removed.
redacted Ohio
All addresses and absentee ballot information have been redacted for all voters. The statute 149.43 is Ohio’s public records law. This statute provides exceptions to the release of public records. Someone must have complained about the addresses being online although I can find nothing in the statute that would exempt voter registrations.
As a follow up, here are the funding sources of Vote Today Ohio.
You have to wonder how widespread the practice of Obama supporters from safe states heading to swing states is. There is a website that encourages people to make just these kinds of moves called Obamatravel.org. The page says it is not directly supported by the Obama campaign.
UPDATE: I should have known Palestra.net would have more on the out-of-staters.
No doubt, more to come…