The women and child development ministry is soon set to target "indecent portrayal of women" on the internet and other new-age media with hefty fine and stiff penal provisions.
Besides internet, multimedia messaging, satellite communication technology, cable TV, indecent representation of women through any other medium such as print, audio, visual including ads would also be punishable with a fine of Rs. 50,000 and a three-year jail term.
The ministry, after over two years of consultation, has finalised amendments to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.The proposed amendments have not only widened the scope of the existing legislation to include indecent portrayal of women through newer forms of communication but have also substantially enhanced the penalties for violation of the Act, a cognizable offence.
"We have moved a cabinet note to get the amendments approved which will make the act in sync with newer forms of media like the internet," said a ministry official who did not want to be named.
The original Act, enacted in 1986 relates primarily to the print media and prohibited indecent portrayal of women through ads, publication, writing and painting.
The proposed amendments have enhanced the punishment for the first offence with a fine of Rs. 50,000 and jail term of three years. For subsequent offence the proposed fine has been fixed at R1 lakh. In the existing Act, the fine was a mere Rs. 2,000 for the first offence and two-year jail term.
The ministry has also expanded the definition of indecent representation of women to include "depiction of women as a sexual object, which appeals to the prurient interest." The new definition makes the intent of the portrayal specific.
The existing Act defines indecent portrayal as depiction of the figure, form body or any part of a woman, which denigrates women or is likely to injure public morality. The proposed amendment, once approved, will also empower police officer of inspector and above rank to conduct search and seizure.
At present, officers authorised by the state government can conduct search and seizure.