Porn websites: Sanity prevails

Good sense prevailed on the part of the NDA government which has bowed to the criticism and finally lifted the ban imposed on most of the over 850 pornographic websites. Now, the ban will prevail only on those sites which host child pornography. In the first place, blocking porn websites en bloc was wrong on many counts. Issues of personal liberties, freedom of expression and access to the internet are involved here. The government’s moral ideas of what is good or bad for citizens cannot be imposed on them.

There is no law in the country that disallows a person from watching pornography within the confines of his home. There is also no clear legal definition of what constitutes adult and pornographic content. The government had not initiated any debate on the matter in the public realm or held talks with stake-holders like telecom companies, internet activists, legal experts and others on it. It cannot take arbitrary decisions on matters that have implications for citizens’ freedoms, tastes and habits and the economics of telecom operators.


No one would have any contrary opinion on the need to curb and penalise child pornography.The Supreme Court has said, while hearing a PIL to ban porn web sites in the country, that it would issue guidelines on dealing with child pornography after some consultations. It had criticised the government for its inaction in dealing with child pornographic content in adult websites. But it also stated clearly that watching porn at home was not a crime and any move to stop a person from doing so is a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to personal liberty. So, the claim made by the government representatives that the action of blocking hundreds of websites was necessitated by the petition in the Supreme Court or the court’s observations is incorrect and disingenuous. There are enough provisions in the Information Technology Act to deter and penalise the publication of objectionable material.A blanket ban of websites is not needed for that. Communication and social media experts feel that the government’s action amounts to unwelcome and illegal surveillance and policing of the internet. It is also not practical to enforce the ban because there are countless websites hosted from all over the world which present pornographic material. They can be accessed from India. When one is blocked another one comes up in its place. The government seems to revel in bans of all kinds. It has said that it is an interim measure. But where was the need for it when the Supreme Court said it is against the law?

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