Rediff director moves HC over obscentiy charge

The lower court had issued process against Rediff and its directors in this case, despite experts' report that for a search engine, it would be impossible to censor results of any search.

The High Court is scheduled to hear the case after two weeks. Petitioner Sunil N Phatarphekar is one of the non-executive directors of Rediff.

One Abhinav Bhatt, a law student based in Pune, filed a complaint with the magistrate's court in June 2000, saying that Rediff has committed offence under section 292 of IPC (selling, distributing obscene material).

His contention was that if one was to type words such as "sexual intercourse" in the search window on rediff's home-page, it threw up links of pornographic websites.

The judicial magistrate in Pune sought opinion of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd's (VSNL) internet experts in this case.

According to the petitioner, the VSNL's report clearly said that Rediff itself did not host any pornographic material. Further, it said that no contemporary technology could stop pornographic sites from showing up in search results.

But despite this, the Magistrate in November 2000 issued process against the Phatarpekar, and other non-executive as well executive directors of Rediff.

Magistrate held that "prima facied offence has been made out".

The petitioner contends that regulating search results in not possible and "law does not expect a person to do what is not possible".

"There is no centralised storage, location or control point of internet. A search engine won't be able to identify the content of websites. It can't make a human or subjective judgement," it says.

Further, the Information Technology Act too says that internet service provider is not liable for "third party" data made available by it, the petition points out.

Government pleader S Pednekar said that though government is yet to formulate its reply to petition, the matter assumes significance due to wider penetration of internet.

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