The Bharatiya Janata Party website, which finally came back online on March 21 after being hacked on March 5, has been accused of using a free layout template developed by an Andhra Pradesh-based startup W3layouts without giving the company due credit. Though the template is free, the company’s conditions require users to include a “backlink” acknowledging the source.

For a fortnight until it was restored, the BJP website showed a message saying that it was under maintenance and would be “back online shortly”. When it made an appearance again, it featured only a single, static page.

On Saturday, W3layouts published a blog post claiming that the restored BJP website had used a design called “Peek”, a “landing page bootstrap responsive web template” developed by the company. The Nellore-based company alleged that the BJP website removed the backlink to the W3layouts site that is built into the template to recognise the designer.

Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP’s national information technology cell, said that the layout was a “free-to-use application” and that W3layout’s code was dropped when the company insisted on the backlink since “it is not something we do in normal course”.

“We had, in fact, offered to mention their name but since it did not find favour, we preferred to work with [an] alternate solution,” Malviya added. “We are not using their template.”

Despite Malviya’s explanation, the company published screenshots of the code of the BJP website, claiming that this supported its contention about plagiarism.

W3layouts also tweeted its licence terms to the BJP. It alleged that instead of offering an apology or giving it due credit, the developers of the party’s website changed the code to remove any mention of the company.

The licence terms of W3layouts state that users are not allowed to remove backlinks included in the template unless they have paid for the product.

A quick comparison of the archived code used by the restored BJP website on March 21 and the code of the sample of W3layout’s template shows the word “bottom” misspelled as “bottem”, suggesting that the BJP did use the starup’s code, web developers say.

W3layouts templates are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported conditions, which states that appropriate credit must be given to the creator, a link to the licensc must be included, and changes made, if any, must be indicated.

Update: Malviya later pointed to another tweet from W3layouts saying that the BJP had removed “complete traces” of the W3layouts template.