Posting and circulating obscene material online would make a person liable to be prosecuted under the Information Technology Act and not the general criminal law that is the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Supreme Court has ruled.
“Once the special provisions having the overriding effect do cover a criminal act and the offender, he gets out of the net of the IPC,” said a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra while quashing a criminal case against a senior executive of a popular e-commerce company.
The Delhi Police had registered a case under the IPC as well as the IT Act against the executive after a video clip of two school students in a sexual act was uploaded for sale on the website in 2004. The IPC section invoked against him pertained to selling of obscene material. On a challenge, the Delhi high court quashed the case registered under IT Act, but ordered continuation of IPC proceedings.
Noting the settled legal position, the top court said the IT Act was a special law and prevailed over the general and prior laws. The provision under the IT law covers the offence described in IPC, the bench said.
“We have already referred to the scheme of the IT Act and how obscenity pertaining to electronic record falls under the scheme of the Act,” the bench said, accepting the arguments of senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi that his client should not have faced trial under IPC after having being discharged under the IT law.
During the hearing the Centre and Delhi government took opposite stands on the controversy. The Centre, represented by attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, told the bench there was a distinction between the offences referable to the internet and the print medium and the IT Act would override the IPC, he submitted.
But according to Delhi government, the IPC section was broader and included offences committed in the electronic medium also.
“We are inclined to think so as it is a special provision for a specific purpose and the Act has to be given effect to so as to make the protection effective and true to the legislative intent,” the bench said, underlining the mandate behind the IT Act.