Govt climbs down on porn ban, says can't do moral policing | india | Hindustan Times
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Govt climbs down on porn ban, says can't do moral policing

Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it can not ban porn except for child pornography.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2015 09:06 IST
Bhadra Sinha
The-Internet-Service-Providers-Association-of-India-ISPAI-has-now-decided-to-approach-the-communications-ministry-to-seek-clarification-on-the-definition-of-pornography-and-child-pornography-and-the-parameters-that-violate-it-Shutterstock
The-Internet-Service-Providers-Association-of-India-ISPAI-has-now-decided-to-approach-the-communications-ministry-to-seek-clarification-on-the-definition-of-pornography-and-child-pornography-and-the-parameters-that-violate-it-Shutterstock

The government on Monday cleared its stand on banning porn websites, telling the Supreme Court that it didn’t want to do moral policing and make India a totalitarian state.

However, it sought a complete ban on online child pornography.

“Two persons watching something in their bedroom can’t be penalised ... we cannot be present in everyone’s bedroom,” attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, who was hearing a petition seeking curbs on porn portals.

He said a larger debate was required in society or in Parliament on blocking porn sites.

The government’s statement came 10 days after the department of telecommunications (DoT) issued an order to internet service providers (ISPs) to ban 857 sites with adult content in India to uphold morality and decency.

The July 31 order was partially revoked following outrage on social media and allegations of attempts to curb individual freedom.

But it came with the rider that ISPs should shut down sites that promote child pornography, prompting them to refuse to implement the order until they were given a specific list.

The government was considering setting up an ombudsman to track online porn content as ISPs contended that the order on child porn was ambiguous and unpractical.

During a hearing last month, Chief Justice Dattu declined to pass an interim order to block porn websites, saying the court could not stop an adult from exercising his fundamental right to personal liberty to watch porn within the privacy of his room.

“Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching (pornography) within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty),” he remarked.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by Indore-based lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani who sought a total clampdown on websites showing pornography.

ISP Association of India president Rajesh Chharia said the core issue was defining pornography. “It changes from Delhi to Mumbai. An actress in a bikini may be normal for a person living in a metropolitan city but a small-town resident may call it porn. The question is how much liberty we give users. This can only come by self-regulation and not by court or government directives,” he told HT.

The attorney general said he would personally speak to DoT officials and get it sorted out. The matter is likely to be taken up in October.