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Gurugram court summons Alibaba, Jack Ma on ex-employee’s complaint

Gurugram court summons Alibaba, Jack Ma on ex-employee's complaint

A district court in Gurugram has summoned Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma in a case filed by ex-employee. The complaint was filed  dated July 20 by the former employee of Alibaba’s UC Web, Pushpandra Singh Parmar. He alleges the company used to censor content seen as unfavourable to China. And its apps UC Browser and UC News showcased false news “to cause social and political turmoil”.

Mr. Parmar was wrongfully fired after objecting to what he saw as censorship and fake news on company apps, documents.

Case comes when India cited security concerns in banning Alibaba’s UC News, UC Browser and 57 other Chinese apps. Which was followed after a clash between the two countries’ forces on their border. India sought written answers from all affected companies. Which included whether they censored content or acted for any foreign government.

The order was issued under section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Which was read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology(Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009. Under which, the Ministry of Information Technology declared to block 59 apps in view of the emergent nature of threats. 

Civil Judge [ CJ ] Sonia Sheokand of a district court in Gurugram issued summons for Alibaba, Jack Ma. Also, to about a dozen individuals or company units asking them to appear in court on July 29. The judge has also sought written responses from the company and its executives within 30 days, according to the summons.

Response of UC India

The court case is latest hurdle for Alibaba in India after the Indian government’s app ban. Following which UC Web has started laying off some staff in India.

UC India said in a statement it had been unwavering in its commitment to the India market. Including the welfare of its local employees, and its policies are in compliance with local laws. Alibaba representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Chinese company or on behalf of Jack Ma.

Before apps were banned, the UC Browser had been downloaded at least 689 million times in India. While UC News had 79.8 million downloads, most during 2017 & 2018, data from analytics firm Sensor Tower showed.

There has been no response for comment by Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and China’s foreign ministry in Beijing. As well as by India’s IT ministry in New Delhi.

Allegations against the Company

Pushpandra Singh Parmar worked as an associate director at the UC Web office in Gurugram until October 2017. He seeks $268,000 as damage against Alibaba and it’s founder for his illegal termination. Mr. Parmar is being represented by advocate Atul Ahlawat.

In more than 200 pages of court filings included clippings of some posts showcased on the UC News app. The same was alleged to be false.

One post from 2017 was headlined in Hindi: “2,000-rupee notes to be banned from midnight today”. Another headline of a 2018 post said: “Just now: War broke out between India and Pakistan”. And contained description of firing across the disputed border between the countries. Reuters could not independently verify the veracity of the claims in the court filing.

The lawsuit also contains a “sensitive words list” with key words in Hindi and English. Like “India-China border” and “Sino-India war” . The court filing alleges being used by UC Web to censor content on its platforms in India. Any news related content against China was automatically/manually rejected by an audit system evolved for this purpose.