Govt softens stance on porn ban

Govt softens stance on porn ban

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it does not want to establish a totalitarian state or resort to moral policing by banning pornography, except those involving children.

“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,” Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi submitted before a three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Indore-based lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani, seeking enactment of a law to check proliferation of pornographic sites on the Internet, especially in view of their 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.

At a time when the government was making a Digital India campaign and wanted to include about 100 crore people into the project, there could not be total ban on pornography. It is a matter of larger public debate in the society, the attorney general added.

“We are now talking about Digital India. The prime minister has a website and he wants people to send ideas for his Independence Day speech,” he said, adding, “Some kind of self-regulation is also required. In addition to parental lock and software, there is not much we can do.”

Rohatgi also explained there were 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.

The bench, also comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, concurred with the AG's view who said that issues relating to blocking sites could be sorted out between internet service providers (ISPs) and the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). The government had on July 31 directed ISPs to block 857 sites and then later on August 4 asked them to block only those containing child pornography.

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