Watching porn is not a crime in privacy, Supreme Court of India said on Thursday and declined a plea to pass an interim order to block porn websites in India. A day after the Centre assured the top court that all possible measures were being taken to block porn sites, Chief Justic of India HL Dattu observed, “Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 [right to personal liberty].”

Dattu’s reaction came after lawyer Kamlesh Vashwani filed a PIL petition in August 2014 asking the court to block porn websites in India, The Hindu reported. The CJI, who was heading a three-judge bench, asked the Union home ministry to file a detailed affidavit within four weeks. Panjwani, who is representing Vashwani, told the SC bench that crime against women and children, which was majorly influenced by porn is on the rise and the MHA has failed to file an affidavit despite repeated directions.

Chief Justice of India HL Dattu. Image courtesy: PIBChief Justice of India HL Dattu. Image courtesy: PIB

Chief Justice of India HL Dattu. Image courtesy: PIB

According to PTI, the government had then said that it was helpless to shut these websites down as most of them had servers located outside the country.

The bench agreed that the matter was serious but also added that they cannot give any immediate relief in the matter. Directing the government to reply in four weeks, Dattu said, “The issue is definitely serious and some steps need to be taken. The Centre is expected to take a stand…let us see what stand the Centre will take.”

Government on Wednesday had assured the Supreme Court that all possible measures would be taken to block porn sites, particularly those dealing with child pornography. The assurance had come after the bench headed by CJI expressed its unhappiness that things have not moved forward and the petitioner in the matter was making all sorts of submissions.

The government counsels said it was not the Information and Broadcasting Ministry but for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to look into the issue. The bench said no interim order can be passed in the matter which has to be examined after going through the counter-affidavit of the government department.

The apex court had earlier asked the Secretary, DoT to file an affidavit on whether the government was competent to issue direction to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block porn sites particularly those showing child pornography. The service providers had submitted that they on their own cannot block such sites and they can do so only on the direction of the government.

The petitioner had pleaded that although watching obscene videos is not an offence, pornographic sites should be banned as they were one of the major causes for crimes against women. It was submitted that the Centre had failed to devise mechanism to block such sites and absence of internet laws encouraged people to watch porn videos and as it was not an offence.

The petition alleged that over 20 crore porn videos or clippings were freely available in the market, which are directly being downloaded through internet or other video CDs. “The sexual content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive and has put entire society in danger, so also safety threats to public order in India. The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography. The worrying issue is the severity and gravity of the images are increasing. It is a matter of serious concern that pre-pubescent children are being raped,” it had said.

With PTI inputs

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An adult can watch porn within the four walls of his room, says CJI HL Dattu