On February 11th, Times of India carried a front page article titled “Govt Cannot Ban Porn Websites for Obscenity”. The article and contents came as a “dream cum true” for many who make it their daily habit to live on a porn diet. Times of India carried the news widely in all its publications including Economic Times.

TOI  itself rejoiced on the contents of the article and gleefully reproduced excerpts from many of the Savita Bhabhi toons. It also boldly gave out the alternate URL of Savita Bhabhi in its article and ensured that every reader of Times of India on and offline is now aware that Savita Bhabhi is back and that available at the given alternate URL. Additionally the article made many techies who work for the pornography industry for their daily bread rejoice that they can have a fantastic time ahead in India.

Over the last one week, the media was full of the views of the Chief Justice of India that pornography sites on the Internet need to be banned. His views had sent a shock wave amongst many in the Internet industry including the ISPs whose bandwidth consumption based on pornography related downloads appeared threatened.

There was therefore a need for some interesting story to be planted in the media to wipe out the depression to which the industry had gone after the Chief Justice’s remark. The solution was to approach the  publication like Times of India whose print media itself is having a high stake on soft porn and a willing reporter who could be made to write what the industry wanted. What was also important was that the publication was ready to carry the article on the front page of the print version so prominently that it was the prime article of the day in all the editions.

Unfortunately however,  the entire article is based on a false interpretation of the provisions of the ITA 2008 and if any one is feeling happy that India is now ripe for exploitation by the pornography industry, they are sadly mistaken.

The author argues that by virtue of Sections 69 and 69 A, Government cannot ban any website unless it can cause “riots” in the country. What the section 69 says is that the power can be excercised for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence related to “Public Order”.

The author wrongly presumes that “Public Order” only relates to a riot like situation.

Section 69 is even more powerful in the sense that it empowers a designated authority to “intercept” even for investigation of any offence. This means that there is a lesser need for supporting evidence for invoking Sec 69 than in the case of Section 69A. Interception and Blocking are not much different and can be used to the same ultimate effect.  If the Govt wants to intercept the ISP servers to track who all in India are visiting kirtu.com, who are producing the script, who are writing the pictures etc, they have the right to do so. If the Government suspects that part of kirtu.com revenue may reach terror or drug syndicates, they can invoke investigations under Section 66F for Cyber Terrorism. If they feel that kirtu.com contains Child Pornography, they can invoke investigation under Section 67B.

There is no doubt that the sections are extremely powerful and they have been made so because of serious cyber crime possibilities including Cyber Terrorism. But they can be invoked for investigation of any cognizable offence or offences related to “Public Order”.

The question of whether savita bahbahi /kirtu is an attempt to destabilize “Public Order” or not is a matter which is subject to different interpretation by different persons.

However if a law has been passed earlier to state “Doing xxx is an offence”, then “doing xxx” tantamounts to “Disturbing public order”. Otherwise there is no reason why a law should be made to decalre xxx as an offence.

Now, India has already passed a law that publishing and distribution of obscene information is an offence under Sections 67 and 67A while publishing, transmitting, viewing, searching, viewing, grooming for etc related to “child pornography” is an offence under Section 67B.  On similar grounds savitabhabhi.com was accused earlier and after due consideration the Government had decided to ban it.  Now bringing it back under an alternate name is an attempt to break the public order set to be created with the ban.

Hence Govt can take any action it deems fit as per the procedures it has already prescribed under section 69 and 69A on the owners of kirtu.com. I have in many earlier articles indicated why I consider savitabhabhi.com as a very sinister type of site, more harmful than an average pornography site. It aims at corrupting the indian society. It is one thing to tolerate prostitution and another to bring it home. In that sense savitabhabhi.com is a “Cultural terror” unleashed on the Indian society and needs to be fought against with all our might.

More over since Times of India is knowingly and willingly promoting the illegal site kirtu.com, the publication as well as the author of the said article are liable to be proceeded against both under ITA 2008 as well as perhaps under IPC and other acts.

It is necessary for us to distinguish this case from the “Freedom of Press” or “Freedom of Speech” arguments. They are relevant in cases such as the Shiva Sena ban on MNIK and not for the Government ban on pornography.

If TOI wants the law to be liberalized, they may continue to fight for the dilution of the law through further amendments. They have enough clout with the Government to get their wish fulfilled to make India the Porno Capital of the world. Once the law is changed to their advantage, they can even start their own pornographic site or take a controlling stake of kirtu.com if they have not already done either of the two. 

But writing articles with deliberate misrepresentation is not ethical for the journal and the Press Council needs to take note of the same and take necessary remedial action.

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