Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narsimha, JJ has set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court order directing that the advertisements on OLX platform be deleted and be re-listed only after attaching an open PDF file along with each advertisement containing proofs and certificates.
The High Court had taken note of the fact that in recent years, in Districts of Gurugram, Faridabad, Rewari, Palwal and Mewat, hundreds of FIRs have been registered, in which accused persons, by using OLX platform, have given various advertisements regarding sale of gold (in different form) or sale of vehicles like motorcycle or car at cheaper price or asking for professional service like architect or accountants have allured many innocent persons and thus, have committed the offence of cheating and forgery. The common modus operandi of these accused persons, locally called ‘Titloo Gang’, is that as and when a person responds to OLX advertisement, the accused person would call him to their native village or nearby place and then by playing fraud, dupes a victim by taking money under threat and in that process, some of the persons have lost lacs of rupees. In many cases, victims are from different states, who are allured to buy gold at lower price and then given fake gold by taking huge money.
The High Court, had, hence directed that,
“… all the advertisements on OLX platform be deleted and be re-listed only after attaching an open PDF file along with each advertisement, containing the following: –
(a) At least 02 ID proofs of the person, who is proposing to sell a property (moveable or immoveable) or asking any professional service.
(b) Two mobile numbers with a screen shot/photocopy of message sent by the server, who issued the SIM verifying name of owner as per their record.
(c) Details of the property to be sold whether moveable or immoveable and a document of title like Registration Certificate or insurance paper for vehicles or sale deed etc. for property.
(d) In aforesaid five Districts, in case the proposed seller is residing in a village or in the area of Municipal Corporation/Municipal Council, a certificate of Member of the Panchayat or Municipal Councillor certifying that the proposed seller is not involved in any such or similar criminal case and is a genuine owner of property.
(e) Only by putting this information in PDF file, the advertisements will be accepted by OLX or any other such agency and will be floated for the general public. Learned State counsel is directed to file the affidavit before the next date of hearing.”
OLX, hence, approached the Supreme Court and argued that the it does is to make available the services of an internet platform through which prospective vendors of goods and merchandise can issue appropriate advertisements soliciting responses from the intending purchasers and that as an internet platform or an intermediary, the appellant is not liable to guarantee the quality of the goods or merchandise which is put up for sale nor is it possible for the appellant to certify about the genuineness and correctness of the deal sought to be entered into. Hence, the High Court ought not to have issued notice and issued interim directions.
While the Supreme Court refused to enter into and deal with the submissions advanced by OLX and left it to agitate all of the issues before the High Court, it was of the opinion that there was no occasion for the High Court to pass the aforementioned directions; and more particularly, without hearing the appellant.
The Court, hence, quashed the impugned order.
[OLX India BV v. State of Haryana, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 286, order dated 08.03.2022]
For OLX: Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra
For State: Nikhil Goel, Additional Advocate General for the State.