After blocking over 850 porn websites, the Union government on Monday told the Supreme Court it was not a “totalitarian state” bent on conducting moral policing.
The government clarified its stand on the >controversial porn ban , saying ‘it does not want to intrude into the private spaces and bedrooms of citizens’ if somebody wanted to watch porn in the privacy of his room.
However, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi made it clear before a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu that >child pornography was a strict ‘no-no’, with India being no exception from the developed world in >banning child pornography .
“Child porn sites have to be blocked,” Mr. Rohatgi said.
He said the need for a law banning other forms of porn was a topic for a larger debate, probably in Parliament or a public forum and not in court.
“We cannot become a totalitarian state. Somebody wants to watch porn in the privacy of his room, can we prevent that? We are now talking Digital India reaching 100 crore people. We are at a stage when the Prime Minister has asked citizens to put what he should say in his Independence Day speech ... we can’t stop people from watching this and that,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.
The A-G detailed how difficult a task it was to track and stop ban violators with fast disappearing geographical barriers.
“Two adults want to watch something they feel is entertainment, what is the role of the State in this? We cannot be present in everybody’s bedroom ... In the old days, there were magazines. All one had to do was stop the distribution of the publication. Now how can we stop someone from watching porn on their mobile phones? We cannot block it,” he said.
He said Internet users should protect children in their families by liberally making use of parental controls and child locks on their computer systems.
Mr. Rohatgi said similar software was being developed to be used in mobile phones also.
“Steps have to be taken to not stop these contents at the gateway of the country, but at your end, on your mobile phones,” Mr. Rohatgi said.
Dichotomy in government stand, claim Internet service providers
The Supreme Court, hearing a PIL filed by advocate Kamlesh Vashwani to block porn websites, saw the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), represented by senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, express their confusion at the government order to ban the 857 porn websites.
Ms. Arora said they could block specific Unique Resource Locators which the government pointed out to them, but not websites as a whole.
“There is complete dichotomy in what the government is saying,” Ms. Arora said. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, however, said this confusion could be settled with the department concerned and need not be adjudicated by the Supreme Court.
“Let them come to the department, why waste the Supreme Court’s time,” Mr. Rohatgi said, to which the court agreed while ordering the case to be posted on a later date.