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Delhi HC seeks Centre, Amazon India response on plea seeking prohibition on sale via banned apps

Senior Counsel Vivek Raj Singh, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Court that in June 2020, 59 Chinese applications were banned by the Government of India, including ‘Shein’, to protect the integrity and sovereignty of India.

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The Delhi High Court has sought the response of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) and Amazon India in a plea seeking prohibition on the sale of products from applications banned by the Central Government in the Indian digital marketplace. 

The Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued a notice in the petition highlighting the sale of Shein products on Amazon.in. Senior Counsel Vivek Raj Singh, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Court that in June 2020, 59 Chinese applications were banned by the Government of India, including Shein, to protect the integrity and sovereignty of India. He submitted that for a Prime Day Sale scheduled for July 26 and 27, Amazon.in has advertised for a sale of products from Shein on its platform.

He further submitted that a representation was made to the concerned Ministry to take appropriate steps as the application is banned, upon which the concerned Ministry asked for concrete suggestions from the petitioner. In lieu thereof, the petitioner responded with suggestions including partial suspension, ban on the said advertisement; but nothing has been done by the Ministry as yet. He stated that the onus is on the Ministry to see that the said advertisement does not go through. 

The matter is slated for August 20. The PIL has been filed by one Ananttika Singh through Advocates Preet Singh Oberoi and Amer Vaid. The plea avers that the Ministry of Information and Technology, vide notification dated June 29, 2020, temporarily banned the application and platform operated, owned, and controlled by the brand Shein on account of alleged misuse of data collected from Indian customers, thereby endangering the interest and sovereignty of India. Subsequently, in January 2021, the application was permanently banned from operation in India by the concerned Ministry. 

The plea further avers that an advertisement was released by Amazon.in on July 12, 2021 announcing the Prime Day Sale scheduled to be held on its platform. The advertisement categorically mentioned about the sale of Shein products on the website of Amazon.in as part of the sale.

At this backdrop, the petitioner made a representation on July 21 to the concerned authorities highlighting that the sale of Shein products through Amazon.in is contrary to the notification issued by the Ministry.  In addition, it was also represented that on account of Amazon’s privacy policy dated October 21, 2020 wherein Amazon could share the data collected from users of its platform to the registered sellers, it could be possible for Shein to access the personal data of millions of Indian citizens who purchase its products from Amazon. However, no action has yet been taken upon her representation.

The plea thus reads: “The Respondent No.2 (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) and the concerned authorities whilst taking cognizance of the same, have failed to take appropriate steps in order to ban/suspend/regulate the entry of “Shein” into the Indian digital marketplace. Once it is has been established that the entry of “Shein” and its products enabled access to information generated by computer source, which was prejudicial to the interest and sovereignty of India, it cannot be allowed to circumvent the law by using a third party platform akin to Respondent No.1 (Amazon India).”

“In the event that “Shein” is not prohibited from selling its products via the “prime sale” on Amazon.in, it could severely impinge on the integrity and sovereignty of this nation,” the plea further adds.

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In this light, the plea prays for a direction to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to take necessary steps to prohibit the entry of product of ‘Shein’ in the Indian digital marketplace through Amazon India. Furthermore, it seeks a direction to Amazon India to suspend partnership with any banned entity till such ban is not lifted by the Indian Government; as also to partially suspend partnership with ‘Shein’ till Amazon can assure the Government that no data would be shared by it in any form with ‘Shein’.

In addition, the plea seeks the appointment of a third-party committee by the Government of India, at the cost of Amazon.in, to make audits on the flow of data of the India consumers to Shein.

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