Property portal 99acres.com is in the line of fire after a broker posted an advertisement for a flat in Mumbai clearly mentioning that Muslims are not welcome.
The advertisement about a flat located at Dadar's Hindu Colony in Mumbai was posted on 99acres.com on 23 October, 2013 by broker Vishal D'Souza, which read: "Excellent brand new 2BHK fully furnished flat with cross ventilation, natural light. Cosmopolitan society, no Muslims, with car parking on immediate sale, fifth floor interested please call".
Theadvertisement was modified on 2 November 2 but not before people took notice of the offensive and discriminatory advertisemt. Not only did it go viral on social media butaccording to a CNN IBN report, a young lawyer and social activist Shehzad Poonawalla filed a petition with the National Commission for Minorities seeking action against the broker and 99acres.com.
"I would like to draw the urgent and immediate attention of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) towards the discriminatory approach of a leading property website 99acres.com and a broker namely, Vishal D'Souza from Mumbai, wrt to access to housing by Muslims. The home in question is located at Dadar's Hindu Colony in Mumbai and was put up by broker Vishal D'souza. A screen shot of the said ad is being provided here," he said in his petition.
Claiming that the advertisement is not only discriminatory and reflects unethical standard of business, it also runs contrary to the Indian Constitution which is secular.
Poonawalla also said that such cases are increasingly coming to light where Muslims are denied houses in certain localities of Mumbai because of their religion.
In rensponse to the ad, 99acres issued a statement saying, "Thelisting contained offensive references to a religious community.Our company is totally against such discriminatory practices. At any point of time 99acres has over 400,000 classified listings. These are uploaded directly by advertisers on the site using our self-service online interface. The offensive text was removed from the listing by the advertiser before the matter was brought to our notice. We are in the process of investigating the matter in more detail.We are a platform or an intermediary and as per industry practice it is our responsibility to remove any illegal content from our site after it is brought to our notice. We are also examining other listings on the site for any such objectionable content. We are in the process of putting in place checks and processes to prevent the recurrence of such acts. We are deeply embarrassed that our site was misused in this manner."
Moreover, the property portal held that 99 Acres is not liable in a case of prejudice, because as per the IT act they are simply 'intermediaries' and their responsibility is to remove offensive content once it is brought to their notice.
Such prejudice in the realty market however, is not new. One often finds posts titled " Only brahmins, hindus, vegetarians and straight people wanted."
There is even a Facebook group calledGay Housing Assistance Resource, or GHARnd GHAR.text. which helps provide lon-term accommodation for the LGBT community pan-India. And to find a place onGHAR is simple. After sending a request to join the Facebook group called G.H.A.R. (Gay Housing Assistance Resource), you will be added to the group by an administrative member. You can then post your advertisement for letting or renting by creating a post.
The group also suggests estate agents and LGBT-friendly property websites. Searching for LGBT housemates and emergency asylum are two outstanding features of GHAR.