MUMBAI: Google India, the domestic subsidiary of the high-profile Silicon Valley web search company, is facing defamation charges from a Mumbai-based firm, Gremach Infrastructure Equipments & Projects.

The company has filed a lawsuit against Google for hosting a series of articles on its blogging site, campaigning against its mines in Mozambique. In an interim order, the Bombay High Court has asked Google India to furnish information about the blogger. The case’s outcome will have far-reaching implications for the development of cyber law in India. In its petition filed, Gremach said a series of articles titled “Toxic Writer” were posted on Google’s blogging site between January and February.

The article amounted to a “hate campaign” against the company, according to Gremach. The Indian firm had acquired 75% stake in 11 coal mining licences in the African country in September 2007. When contacted, a Google spokesperson said: “The case is sub-judice. We are not able to comment.” A source in Gremach said the company “suspects corporate rivalry behind the hate campaign” and has sought help from the Mumbai Police’s cyber crime cell. However, the investigations by the local police hit a dead end after Google’s India office refused to co-operate, he added.

Gremach then moved the Bombay High Court against Google India, seeking information about the blogger. Interestingly, group company, Austral Coke, whose initial public offering closed on Wednesday, is engaged in a legal battle with Gujarat NRE Coke over certain claims in Austral’s IPO prospectus. Gujarat NRE had questioned the veracity of some information in the prospectus.

A corporate lawyer said Indian courts would have to decide on whether Google will have to disclose the blogger’s identity. In the US, the courts usually do not compel websites to divulge bloggers’ identity. “This is for the first time a blogging platform company is being sued in India,” said Anoop Narayanan, a partner in corporate law firm Majmudar & Co. “As we do not have any specific laws on this, the Indian court will have to consider the direct liability of Google, taking into consideration how important the disclosure is to the plaintiff (Gremach),” he added.

In 2006, Yahoo was accused by human rights activists of providing information to the Chinese police about bloggers who were later jailed for writing ‘anti-China’ articles. A blog or a web log is an online diary published on a web page. Hundreds of companies, including market leaders Google and Yahoo, provide a platform to anyone with an e-mail identity to post articles/pictures on the internet.

Often these blogs are misused, as anonymous bloggers, including corporates, use them to spread misinformation about rivals. Only companies providing web logging platform and internet service providers have access to the bloggers internet protocol number -- a unique number assigned to each computer -- only they can divulge the blogger’s identity.

Bloggers all over the world have been prosecuted by governments for unsubstantiated articles. Many have been jailed. At the same time, platform providing companies have faced flak for providing information on bloggers to investigating agencies from pro-freedom of speech activists