There have been a few comments in India critical of the Government’s decision to ban savitabhabhi.com a website which contained what many considered as objectionable obscene content. In particular, I refer to the article in contentsutra.com where the the issue of “Censorship” has been brought in and requires some clarification.

It must be remembered that “Freedom of Expression” granted in any democratic country only allows persons to express views within the legal framework of the country. Maintenance of the website like savitabhabhi.com is not protected by the freedom of expression and therefore banning of the same is not unacceptable whether we call it censorship or othewise. India does have censorship for films and there is no reason why it should not be applied to Internet. While “Censorship” of political views is objectionable, censorship of pornographic content or terrorist messages etc is not.

My views on proposed amendments to ITA 2000 (Which also has been referred to in the subject article) are  well documented and I do agree that there are enormous powers conferred on Governemnt agencies which have the potential to be misused. I have also stated what could be the remedial measures that can be taken to ensure that the powers would not be miused (Refer articles on naavi.org for more on this).

I would also like to reiterate that savitabhabhi.com is a sinsiter project to corrupt the minds of Indian children and make money out of such activity. It does not stand comparision to Khajurao paintings or Kamasutra etc. It must be remembered that Indian law such as Section 67 of ITA 2000 lays emphasis on whether the content is likely to “…deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, ..”. It is therefore not the content per-se which is relevant to be considered but also the context in which it is presented and the persons who are likley to view them. In this overall contextual impact, savitabhabhi.com content qualifies to be called highly objectionable.

This content therefore deserves to be banned and it has actually taken too long a time for the decisison to come from the Government. I took up this case with the CERT-In way back around May 2008 and  though there was a delay, the correct decision has been taken.

For those who think that my views curb freedom, I would also recall that in an article dated January 5, 2002, titled “Declare a War on Cyber Pornography”, I  suggested “..For the present I would like to state that the first attempt which is easy to achieve is to prevent Indian Cyber Space being used for purveying pornographic content. This can be achieved by a suitable administrative guideline where by the State or Central law enforcement authorities can  after a due process of verification order the ISP s manning the  Internet Gateways to block “Objectionable Sites”. In order to prevent misuse of this provision, there could be a transparent system of approval of such “Blocking” from a team of responsible members from the public.”

I still consider that Pornography is a threat to the Internet society and needs to be checked. I certainly look forward to more active censorship of such content by the Government.

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