Refusing to ban pornographic content on the internet, the Supreme Court on Friday said it was not for courts to decide; the Centre had to take a call on the issue. The court made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a complete ban of erotic content.
Vijay Panjwani, representing Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani, pressed for an interim order till the home ministry took a stand on the issue. But the court said: “Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody can come to the court and say ‘Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room? It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the Constitution.’ Yes the issue is serious and some steps need to be taken. The Centre has to take a stand, let us see what stand the Centre will take,” Chief Justice H L Dattu, heading a three-judge Bench, said. The court asked the home ministry to file a detailed affidavit within four weeks.
In August 2014, however, an SC Bench headed by then Chief Justice R M Lodha had said erotic content needed to be blocked and had agreed with the same PIL. It had also demanded strict laws against such content.
Panjwani said officials uploading such material were liable to be punished under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for showing obscene materials) and Section 13 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (use of children for pornographic purposes).
In 2014, the secretary of the department of telecommunications had shown inability to ban such sites, saying even as there existed a procedure to issue directions to block pornographic websites, it was not feasible to black out all such websites due to practical difficulties, coupled with technological issues.
Mail Today quoted Additional Solicitor General L Nageswara Rao as saying: “We wish to have some control over the content of social networking sites but the hurdle is that all of those are headquartered abroad and content uploading is done in other countries. There are jurisdictional issues. So, we are planning to ask these sites to have a server in India, too, so that we can scan those.”
Rao had said the issue would be taken up at a meeting of the newly formed Cyber Regulatory Advisory Committee. About two billion clippings are freely available in the market which have been directly downloaded from the internet or copied from video compact disks.
According to cyber expert and Supreme Court lawyer Pavan Duggal, the Information Technology Act does not make it illegal to view adult porn but watching child pornography is an offence under Section 67B of IT Act, added in 2008.
Now, the ball is in the Centre’s court.