Govt Does Volte Face On Porn Ban: Tells Supreme Court It Can't Play Nanny In Every Household

10/08/2015 2:41 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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The government has told the Supreme Court that although it wanted a ban on websites peddling child pornography, it could not play the role of moral police and be present in every household to check what people are watching in private, according to reports.

Addressing the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the state cannot interfere with people's entertainment, IANS reported.

The AG reportedly told the court there has to be some self regulation to check the viewing of porn websites and that the state cannot be totalitarian. The comments came up in the course of the hearing of a petition seeking a total clampdown on websites showing pornography.

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Rohtagi also said a larger debate was required in the society or in Parliament on banning porn sites altogether, NDTV reported.

"Child pornography has to be banned. However we cannot become a totalitarian state," he said.

The AG suggested people use self regulation in dealing with porn websites and make use of tools like child locks in computers.

The court was assured by the government that websites hosting child porn were being blocked, according to IBNLive.

The government last week began a massive and unprecedented ban on pornographic websites, supplying internet companies with a list of more than 850 websites that need to be denied access to.

The move came about after home ministry's official counsel notified the telecom ministry about a Supreme Court observation during the hearing of a petition by Kamlesh Vaswani demanding a ban on pornographic content.

According to the home ministry letter, the SC had made an adverse remark about the "lethargic approach to the issue" by the home ministry. Following this, the Rajnath Singh-headed ministry requested the telecom ministry to expedite a move in this direction.

In early July, the Supreme Court declined to pass an interim order during a petition brought by advocate Kamlesh Vashwani to block pornographic websites in India. Chief Justice of India (CJI) H.L. Dattu observed orally in court, during lawyers’ arguments, that it would be a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) to ban anyone over 18 years of age from “watching it within the four walls of my room”.

But the court also took a "dim view of the lethargy" with which the home ministry was acting, asking additional solicitor general Pinky Anand why the home ministry was not taking any action on the petitioner's contentions. However the SC made these observations in the light of the home ministry not doing anything to curb access to child pornography websites.

The list of 857 sites on the block included some of the largest international porn sites such as YouPorn and Pornhub as well pirate sites such as kickass.to, which along with porn, also hosts mainstream Hollywood and Bollywood movies.

But within days the government reversed its order, the department of telecom withdrawing the list of 857 websites it had asked internet service providers to ban. The ministry will now disregard the list, which was furnished by Indore high court lawyer and petitioner Kamlesh Vaswani.

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