Apex Court inquires whether Government of India departments can issue directions for blocking pornographic sites

On 21st April 2014, the petition filed by Kamlesh Vaswani asking for a ban on all pornographic websites, came up for hearing before a Supreme Court bench of Justices BS Chauhan and J Chelameswar. In its previous order the bench had asked the four government respondents (Union of India, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Department of Telecom) to file their replies within 3 weeks.

At the latest hearing, the Union of India filed its counter- affidavit. The court has now directed the Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) (Ministry of Communications & Information Technology) to file an affidavit within one week stating whether DoT or any other department is competent to issue directions to the Internet service providers to block pornographic websites.

In response to the Government informing the Supreme Court that it is difficult to block pornographic websites, the bench came down heavily on the Centre and told the ASG that ‘we don’t expect this kind of argument. You are a mighty government. You issue the direction for blocking these sites, or else, we have to issue the direction, though it is not the court’s job to run the administration. When the problem of pornography is brought to your notice, why don’t you take action’. The bench also asked the Government ‘why can’t you control and regulate websites?” to which the ASG responded by saying that ‘we don’t know which of them should be blocked’.

Additional Advocate General PP Malhotra appeared for the Union of India while respondent no. 4, ISPAI was represented by advocates Rahul Narayan and Shivain Vaidalingam. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for 28th April 2014.

See also:

– Cases in which India’s Supreme Court will define contours of free speech online

– One Man’s Pornography is Another Man’s High Art: Internet Service Providers tell Supreme Court in the Porn Petition

– Report on panel discussion on Intermediary Liability & Freedom of Expression

(Sarvjeet is a Project Manager and Research Fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University, Delhi)

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