The requirement of appointment of Grievance Officer stems from the Rule 3 of IT Rules 2011: Intermediaries Guidelines, which reads as follows:
Due diligence to be observed by intermediary
(11) The intermediary shall publish on its website the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details as well as mechanism by which users or any victim who suffers as a result of access or usage of computer resource by any person in violation of rule 3 can notify their complaints against such access or usage of computer resource of the intermediary or other matters pertaining to the computer resources made available by it. The Grievance Officer shall redress the complaints within one month from the date of receipt of complaint.
In the recent matter of SHREYA SINGHAL VERSUS UNION OF INDIA dated 24 March 2015, wherein Section 66A of Information Technology Act was struck down. It also properly interpreted provisions as to Section 79 as to exemption available to Intermediaries and rules 2011 there under, accordingly held as follows:
Section 79 is valid subject to Section 79(3)(b) being read down to mean that an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that unlawful acts relatable to Article 19(2) are going to be committed then fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to such material. Similarly, the Information Technology “Intermediary Guidelines” Rules, 2011 are valid subject to Rule 3 sub-rule.
In any case, it is quite necessary that you have a grievance officer at your website to respond to the various complaints received to minimize the liability as an Intermediary under Indian Information Technology Law. This has already been upheld very specifically in the matter of Amitabh Thakur V Union Of India, wherein it was ordered that the Government of India should ensure within three months that as per Rule 11, all the intermediary publish the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details on the social networking websites.
To take an example, recently a cyber crime case was registered with local Police against some websites at New Delhi recently, wherein during investigation only one of the website was found to be complying with Information Technology Laws by providing proper Legal pages and Grievance Officer, therefore was exempted of any kind of liability. While others are being tried in Delhi’s criminal court and face years of hardship, while they try to defend themselves and will be equally liable as the persons who made the post/comment on their website !