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Freedom of speech does not extend to watching porn in public: SC 

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The Bench also said the Centre has to draw a line between what is "obscenity and what is permissible."

The Supreme Court on Friday said the right to free speech, thought and expression is not “absolute” and does not extend to viewing or compelling to watch porn in a public place.

When the Centre took a guarded stand that right to privacy is a hurdle against banning porn sites on the Internet, the Supreme Court shot back “what is this privacy? Nobody wants to be seen online.”

While the Supreme Court categorically stood with the Centre for ban on child pornography, the Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and S.K. Singh said a line has to be drawn between what is “obscenity and what is permissible” by the Centre.

“There are those who feel that even Mona Lisa is pornography. A distinction has to be drawn between art and obscenity. It is a tough job which has to be done,” Justice Singh told Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre.

Ms. Anand said that it needed the court’s assistance as banning of porn sites cannot be done “directly” as it is an issue which requires international co-operation and can be done only through the Interpol.

Justice Misra said the Centre cannot say its hands are bound because there is no way to “define” what is pornography and what is art. The government even said that obscenity may be “subjective.”

“Other countries have not accepted defeat on that score... what do you mean ‘subjective’? Obscenity is recognised by the law. Pornography can be obscene. Obscenity has been linked to misogynism, perversion, sadism, voyeurism. These are acts depicted in pornography which have a direct nexus with obscenity as crime under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code,” Justice Misra said.

Senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani for the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association said there are even instances where school bus drivers watch porn and compel children to watch them, leading to sexual assaults on them.

Taking a serious view on this aspect, the Supreme Court said “freedom of speech is not absolute, liberty is not absolute” when such rights are misused to make innocent children prey to such sexual perversions.

“Innocent children cannot be made prey to this kind of painful situations and a nation cannot afford to carry on any kind of experiment with its children in the name of liberty,” said the court drawing the line on where rights end and criminality begin.

The Bench quoted a lawyer’s submission in its written order that “freedom of speech cannot create a dent in the national character or moral dent.”

Referring to the exposure of children to pornography owing to free access to it on the Internet, the court said “these moral assaults may bring physical disasters with them.”

The court directed the Centre to reply on ways and means to curb free access to porn on the Internet and asked the government to reply whether there can be a ban on watching porn “of any form” in public places.

The hearing was based on petitions filed to curb free access to porn, especially child pornography, and their ban.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2017 2:45:00 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/freedom-of-speech-does-not-extend-to-watching-porn-in-public-sc/article8285146.ece