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Govt to SC: Want to ban only child porn, don’t want to do moral policing

The Attorney General said this to the court in the course of the hearing of a petition seeking a total clampdown on websites showing pornography.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
August 11, 2015 12:00:24 am
porn banned, porn, india porn ban, #PornBan, supreme court porn ban, porn ban in india, porn ban news, pornography ban, india news, govt porn ban, pron sites banned, child pornography, child porn ban “Pornography is a grey area and there are no straight answers,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench.

Stating that India cannot become a “totalitarian state”, the government Monday told the Supreme Court that it wants to ban only child pornography on the Internet. The government also clarified that it did not want to do “moral policing” or enter “everyone’s house or bedrooms”.

Read: Supreme Court verdict on right to privacy this week

Amid the clamour over a ban on more than 800 porn websites, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi clarified the Centre’s stand before a bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu, which is hearing a PIL demanding an exclusive law to contain the proliferation of pornographic sites on the Internet, especially in view of the “adverse impact” on children.

“Pornography is a grey area and there are no straight answers. Geographic frontiers are no frontiers on the Internet. How can you stop somebody from watching porn? If someone wants to watch porn in the confines of their bedroom, how can we interfere? We cannot become a totalitarian state,” Rohatgi told the bench.

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He added, “We cannot enter everyone’s house or bedrooms. We are not inclined to do moral policing. There are issues of freedom of speech and expression under article 19(1)(a) involved in the matter.”

At the same time, he asserted, “Our stand, however, on child pornography is clear. There is no doubt that child porn has to be banned and the government will make every effort to do it.”

Read: India, let’s discuss porn and censorship: Swedish feminist porn director

Rohatgi said websites which have child porn have to be blocked by the government or on court orders. “Beyond that, this issue is a larger debate, which may take place in the court or may be outside in Parliament or in the society,” he said.

Rohatgi admitted that effective banning on the Internet was very difficult. “There are sites which pick up profiles of an Internet user based on his preferences and such users get pop ups in the form of targeted advertising. We cannot block that. If we block 10 sites, another five would pop up with new names at new locations,” he said.

Reiterating that the government does not want to interfere if adults want to watch porn in the confines of their home, Rohatgi told the bench that there are child/parental lock options that now come pre-installed in all computers to prevent children from accessing porn sites. Besides, there are software being developed for mobiles and other devices, he said.

He added that the best filter is not to block such content at the gateway, but rather by individuals on their devices. “Some kind of self-regulation is also required. In addition to parental lock and software, there is not much we can do. We cannot become a totalitarian state,” Rohatgi said.

At this point, Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Association of India, pointed out that there is a conflict between the two orders issues by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on July 31 and August 4.

“The first order asked ISPs to block 857 websites, but the subsequent orders asked us to unblock 857 URLs and block only those URLs which have child pornography. There is a difference between a website and a URL. We will block whatever we are asked to, under the law and our licence agreements. But we need to have clear instructions regarding what needs to be blocked. The government cannot ask us to identify and block content. That is unreasonable burden on the ISPs,” Arora said.

The bench responded that it has not passed any order in this case or asked for any blocking. Agreeing with the bench, Rohatgi said he will ask the DoT and Department of Electronics and Information Technology to sit with the ISPs and resolve the difficulties that may have arisen out of miscommunication.

The court has now fixed the matter for a detailed hearing in October.

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