Delhi High Court Directs DNRs To Appoint Grievance Officers Under IT Rules 2021

In connection with a bunch of pleas concerning proliferation of fraudulent domain names resulting in monetary loss to public, the Delhi High Court has directed various domain name registrars (DNRs) to appoint grievance officers in compliance of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 within a period of one week.

In an order passed on September 14, Justice Pratibha M Singh added that if the said compliance is not made, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will be free to proceed in accordance with law against such DNRs who have been offering their domain name registration, hosting and related services in India, without complying with the local laws.

“A status report be put up by MeitY by the next date, on this aspect including the steps taken by MeitY pursuant to the directions contained above,” the Court added.

The Court was dealing with a bunch of pleas filed by trademark and brand owners, seeking reliefs against misuse of their marks and names by unauthorized persons, who register such marks as part of their domain names.

It had expressed concern over the lack of effective mechanism for identifying parties who fraudulently use websites and domain names consisting of well known brands and trademarks, thereby obtaining money illegally.

The pleas thus raised the issue that the proliferation of such domain names had resulted in enormous damage to innocent and gullible members of the public, who have been led to believe that the websites hosted on some ‘impostor’ domain names, belong to the actual brand owners.

During the course of hearing, various DNRs had made submissions as to appointment of their grievance officers and mechanisms for implementation of Court orders in cases of infringing and fraudulent domain names or websites.

One of the DNRs Newfold LLC and its five group entities informed the Court that it had appointed common grievance officer by all the DNRs. Similarly, Google LLC informed Court that it has a Grievance Redressal Mechanism.

However, counsel for GoDaddy LLC apprised the Court that he was unable to obtain instructions as to whether any grievance officer has been appointed in terms of Rule 3 of the IT Rules, 2021.

Another DNR Hosting Concepts B.V. informed Court that while there is a grievance cell manned by a number of individuals, no grievance officer has been appointed.

The Court thus gave last and final opportunity to GoDaddy appoint or inform the Court of the requisite Grievance Officers, latest by 20th September, 2022, in accordance with the IT Rules, 2021, and notify the same prominently on their websites, making the details of the Grievance Officers easily accessible in India.

“Insofar as those DNRs which have appointed Grievance Officers are concerned, including Newfold Group and Google, it is made clear that they ought to function in accordance with law including the IT Rules, 2021. In such cases, Plaintiffs are permitted to make advance service in cases relating to domain names registered with the said DNRs to the Grievance Officers through the contact details of the grievance officers. It would then be expected in such cases, that the said DNRs would enter appearance or facilitate the compliance and give effect to the orders or directions passed by Courts,” the Court said.

The matter will now be heard on December 1.

Case Title: DABUR INDIA LIMITED v. ASHOK KUMAR AND ORS and other connected matters

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 871

Click Here To Read Order