Is watching child pornography an offence? SC reserves order: ‘Delete promptly’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Is watching child pornography an offence? SC reserves order: ‘Delete promptly’

Apr 19, 2024 11:04 PM IST

"A child watching porn may not be an offence but children being used in pornography may be an offence and is a matter of serious concern," Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its judgment on an appeal challenging the Madras High Court's decision that downloading and possessing child pornography is not a criminal offence.

In January, Madras High Court dismissed criminal charges against a 28-year-old individual accused of downloading such content on his mobile phone. (HT File Photo (Representative Image))
In January, Madras High Court dismissed criminal charges against a 28-year-old individual accused of downloading such content on his mobile phone. (HT File Photo (Representative Image))

The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala, reserved its verdict after hearing arguments from both sides.

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"A child watching porn may not be an offence but children being used in pornography may be an offence and is a matter of serious concern," the bench said.

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Mere watching children's pornography not offence under POCSO, IT law: Madras HC

The Madras High Court recently in its ruling stated that solely downloading and watching child pornography does not constitute an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act and the Information Technology law.

In January, the high court dismissed criminal charges against a 28-year-old individual accused of downloading such content on his mobile phone.

“In order to constitute an offence under Section 67-B of Information Technology Act, 2000, the accused person must have published, transmitted or created material depicting children in a sexually explicit act or conduct.

"A careful reading of this provision does not make watching child pornography, per se, an offence under Section 67-B of Information Technology Act, 2000," the high court had said.

The accused had said the material was downloaded automatically on his WhatsApp.

Senior advocate H S Phoolka, representing two organisations - Just Rights for Children Alliance and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, challenged the court's decision, citing provisions from the POCSO Act and the Information Technology Act.

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What does Supreme Court say?

The top court said that if someone receives such material in their inbox, it should be promptly deleted or destroyed to avoid legal scrutiny. Failure to do so could constitute an offence under relevant laws.

The Supreme Court permitted the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to intervene in the case and submit written arguments by April 22.

“Arguments concluded, and judgement reserved,” the CJI said.

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What Madras HC had said about children watching porn?

The Madras High Court raised concerns about the harmful effects of pornography on teenagers. It raised concern over the negative impact on their mental and physical well-being and stressed the need for proper education and counselling to address this issue.

The court suggested starting educational efforts at the school level, as exposure to adult content often begins early.

(Inputs from PTI)

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