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Chinese ‘Shein’ app blocked but sale of products on other platforms not covered: Meity to HC

The Ministry of Electronics and information Technology (MeitY) said the sale of Shein products on other platforms or websites is not covered under Section 69A
Last Updated : 05 October 2021, 13:26 IST
Last Updated : 05 October 2021, 13:26 IST

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The app of Chinese fashion brand Shein was blocked as it was found detrimental to national security but sale of its products on other websites has not been covered under the law, the Centre informed the Delhi High Court on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Electronics and information Technology (MeitY) said the sale of Shein products on other platforms or websites is not covered under Section 69A (Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource) of the IT Act and a blanket order for blocking their sale cannot be passed by the committee constituted under the legal provision.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing a plea seeking to prohibit the re-entry of Chinese fashion brand 'Shein' in India through sale of its products on digital marketplace, Amazon.

“According to them, there is no bar on sale. What do you have to say on this?” the bench asked the counsel for petitioner Ananttika Singh.

The counsel for Amazon submitted that they are yet to receive a copy of the petition.

The court directed the petitioner to supply a copy of the petition to Amazon’s counsel and granted time to file reply and listed the matter for further hearing on December 1.

The ministry, in its reply filed through central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, said public access and functionality of the Shein app was blocked within India in 2020 but the products of Shein being sold on a third party platform in India is altogether a different aspect.

“It is made clear that the Shein app was found to be detrimental to the national security related issues, hence the ‘App’ was blocked. However, the sale of Shein products on other platforms/ websites is not covered under Section 69A of the IT Act. A blanket order for blocking sale of Shein products on other websites cannot be passed by the committee constituted under Section 69A of the IT Act,” it said.

The ministry said that by an interim order, Shein app was blocked on June 29 last year in the interest of India’s sovereignty and security of the State and in January this year, MeitY blocked the app permanently for public access.

“Every incident violating the provisions of Section 69A of the IT Act related to already blocked information or content has to be reported separately by following the due process,” it said.

The high court had earlier issued notice on the petition on the ground that Shein was temporarily banned in India by the Centre last year for being prejudicial to the interest and sovereignty of India.

The court, however, had refused to pass any interim order to stay the sale at this stage.

Senior Advocate Vivek Raj Singh, appearing for petitioner Ananttika Singh, urged the court to pass an interim stay order, saying otherwise data will be transferred to Chinese company.

He said section 69A of the IT Act relates to integrity and sovereignity of the country and these apps were banned because customer details were being passed on to Chinese makers.

Now they are approaching the country through a different platform, he said.

The counsel had earlier informed the court that there was an advertisement on Amazon which publicised the sale of Shein products on its platform as part of its prime day sale.

He had said 59 Chinese apps, including Shein, were banned by the Government of India on June 29, 2020, and pleaded that consequently there should be a total prohibition on the sale of Shein products in the country.

In her PIL, the petitioner has sought a direction to Amazon to suspend its partnership with Shein until the ban imposed by Centre is not lifted.

It said once the entry of Shein and its products was banned for using data of its Indian customers in a manner prejudicial to the interest and sovereignty of the country, it cannot be allowed to circumvent the law by using a third party platform.

The petition highlights that as per Amazon's privacy policy, it could share the data collected from users with registered sellers and it was thus possible that 'Shein' would once again have access to personal and sensitive data of several millions of Indian citizen.

The petition also sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a third party committee, with costs to Amazon, to make audits on the flow of data of the India consumers to Shein.

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Published 05 October 2021, 13:10 IST

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