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Delhi HC seeks Centre's response on PIL against Chinese e-com websites

New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the response of the Centre on a petition seeking directions to block mobile application and e-commerce websites of a China-based company that has an office in Mumbai in view of security threat.

The bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the Union Commerce Ministry to respond to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Shashank Shekhar Jha, an advocate by profession. Another respondent in the matter is the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The court will hear the matter further on January 11, 2022.

In the plea, it was stated that the Chinese mobile application Shopee and website operated by SPPIN India Pvt Ltd, threaten the security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of India.

Highlighting the legal violations, the plea said the company has been conducting its operations in contravention with the Foreign Direct Investment Policy, 2020 and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

The plea contended that information, as available in the public domain, the company is operating their businesses, directly or indirectly, under the control of the Chinese government or its entities. It also claimed that the public and private data of the Indian citizens collected by SPPIN is likely to be compromised, given that such data is believed to be stored on a cloud space, which, directly or indirectly, is accessible to the Chinese government.

Despite the last year's crackdown on Chinese apps by the government following the deadly clashes between Indian armed forces and Chinese forces in Ladakh's Galwan region, many apps went undetected simply by masking their origin and numerous apps of Chinese origin continue to hold significant mind space and market space across India's mobile internet, the plea stated.

Such apps have used a mix of holding companies outside Mainland China, and of rebranding, to maintain or re-establish a presence, it added.