National

Right to access Internet cannot be curtailed, says SC

A file photo of activists during a protest against sex determination tests in New Delhi.

A file photo of activists during a protest against sex determination tests in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: V_Sudershan

Bench against general ban on online content about pre-natal sex determination

Citizens have the right to access the Internet to gain information, wisdom and knowledge and their right cannot be curtailed unless it encroaches into the boundary of illegality, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday.

Calling the Internet a “virtual world” and a “world which is invisible in a way,” the Supreme Court observed that the fundamental right of expression includes “the right to be informed and the right to know and the feeling of protection of expansive connectivity” the Internet offers on the click of a button.

The court clarified that a general prohibition on all online content about pre-natal sex determination will curtail the fundamental right to know of a genuine information-seeker.

Section 22

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra held the prohibition should kick in only if the content found online is violative of Section 22 (prohibition of advertisement relating to pre-natal determination of sex) under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act of 1994.

“To elaborate, if somebody intends to search for ‘medical tourism in India’, he is entitled to search as long as the content does not frustrate or defeat the restriction postulated under Section 22 of the Act,” Justice Misra dictated for the Bench in the order.

The Bench was hearing a petition filed by Sabu Mathew George for strict adherence by search engines to Section 22.

The Centre, represented by Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, said the prohibition under Section 22 should be only on paid ads for sex determination or online advertisements masquerading as information.

Assurance to SC

The three Internet search engines — Microsoft, Google India and Yahoo! India — gave their assurances to the Supreme Court that they would neither advertise nor sponsor advertisements violative of the PNPCDT Act.

The trio said they had already appointed ‘in-house’ experts to spot illegal content and pull them down. Mr. Kumar said nodal officers had been appointed at State levels to keep tabs on the Net for offensive material contravening Section 22 of the Act.

In case the nodal officers detect illegal online content, they would communicate with the search engine’s experts, which would take it off within the next 36 hours of receiving the information. These experts would then follow it up by providing the nodal officers concerned with an action taken report.

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 2:03:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/right-to-access-internet-cannot-be-curtailed-says-sc/article17994420.ece

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