Gurugram court summoned Alibaba, Jack on Former-Employee’s Complaint

Weeks after India’s ban Alibaba’s UC News, UC Browser, and 57 other Chinese apps, a previous employee of Alibaba’s UC Web affirmed the organization used to censor content seen as horrible to China.

A district court in Gurugram has summoned Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma in a case in which a former employee in India says he was wrongfully fired after objecting to what he saw as censorship and fake news on company apps, documents seen by Reuters showed.

The case comes weeks after India cited security concerns in banning Alibaba’s UC News, UC Browser, and 57 other Chinese apps after a clash between the two countries forces on their border. Following the ban, which China has criticized, India sought written answers from all affected companies, including whether they censored content or acted for any foreign government.

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The court case is the latest hurdle for Alibaba in India after the government’s app ban, following which UC Web has started laying off some staff in India.

Before the apps were banned, the UC Browser had been downloaded at least 689 million times in India, while UC News had 79.8 million downloads, most during 2017 and 2018, data from analytics firm Sensor Tower showed.

In court filings dated July 20 and previously not reported, the former employee of Alibaba’s UC Web, Pushpandra Singh Parmar, alleges the company used to censor content seen as unfavorable to China and its apps UC Browser and UC News showcased false news “to cause social and political turmoil”.

Parmar, who worked as an associate director at the UC Web office in Gurugram until October 2017 and is seeking $268,000 in damages, referred Reuters queries to his lawyer, Atul Ahlawat, who declined to comment saying the matter was sub judice.

Civil Judge Sonia Sheokand of a district court in Gurugram has issued a summons for Alibaba, Jack Ma, and about a dozen individuals or company units, asking them to appear in court or through a lawyer on July 29, court documents showed.

The judge has also sought written responses from the company and its executives within 30 days, according to the summons. UC India said in a statement it had been “unwavering in its commitment to the Indian market and the welfare of its local employees, and its policies are in compliance with local laws. We are unable to comment on ongoing litigation”. Alibaba representatives did not respond to requests for comment from the Chinese company or on behalf of Jack Ma.

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