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India is considered to be the world’s largest democracy, but its leaders believe citizens don’t have the right to watch pornography. On July 31, the government of India sent a letter to all Internet service providers (ISPs) that contained a list of 857 websites, which were to be made inaccessible immediately.

Effectively, the government blocked Internet pornography.

The full list of websites was leaked by The Center for Internet and Society, an India-based NGO that aims to defend consumer and citizen rights on the Internet. Among it were several non-pornography websites, including CollegeHumor (#717) and Arby ‘n’ the Chief producer Jon Graham’s personal blog (#778).

Needless to say, social media wasn’t going to take this lying down and did everything short of taking matters into their hands.

Why Has India Banned Porn?

The original letter sent by the government says, “The content on these websites relate to morality, decency as given in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India and section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act.” In layman’s terms, this Article basically states the government can pass laws that contradict certain freedoms granted to Indian citizens, if the laws are in the interest of morality and decency, among others. However, morality and decency aren’t defined in the Constitution.

“Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check. We don’t want them to become a social nuisance 20 Years In Prison For Revenge Porn; Here's What That Is And Why It's A Crime 20 Years In Prison For Revenge Porn; Here's What That Is And Why It's A Crime Revenge porn is very real, it destroys lives, and finally the law is starting to recognize it as a crime. Read More ,” said N N Kaul, Telecom Ministry spokesperson, according to Reuters.

He added that the directive was based on observations made by the Supreme Court of India on July 10.

What did the Supreme Court say? “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],” Chief Justice of India (CJI) H. L. Dattu said, according to The Hindu.

The issue is definitely serious Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature] Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature] A small blank square and a blinking cursor. A window through which the entire world exists. You only have to say the right word – any word – and your every desire will be delivered.... Read More and some steps need to be taken. The Centre is expected to take a stand… let us see what stand the Centre will take,” the CJI observed, directing the government to reply in four weeks.

So this move of blocking access to the websites is apparently the Indian government’s response.

“Pornography is against the cultural values of the country and a solution needs to be chalked out to block such content,” Arvind Gupta, head of the IT cell of the ruling political party BJP, told Business Insider.

So Is This the Law Now?

Not quite. This move was a directive by the Government of India, not by the Supreme Court. The Independent reports that the government has to say why the sites have been blocked within 30 days, which then has to be upheld for it to be a law.

As CatchNews points out, the Government has made two errors in procedure so far: it has not given reasons for the block, and it has not uploaded the order to the website of the Department of Telecommunications, which issued the order.

Kaul himself said that the government was working on a long-term solution and suggested the ban would not remain indefinitely, according to Reuters.

From a legal perspective, it has us a bit confused right now. Legally India, which broke this news, has multiple sources saying that the government also invoked Section 69(A) of the Internet Technology Act 2000, and Rule 12 of the Information Technology Rules 2009.

Karuna Nundy, an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, tweeted that blocking would be legal only if by court order. Blocked portals have legal recourse.

The aforementioned observation by the Supreme Court came in the hearing of a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed by lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani, which has another hearing on July 10.

The Guy Who Started It All

On July 3, Vaswani spoke to The Huffington Post in detail about his case and the current repercussions. He believes the youth of his country don’t contribute substantially to the nation, and only care about porn Pornography Addiction: The Hidden Struggle & How to Break Free [Feature] Pornography Addiction: The Hidden Struggle & How to Break Free [Feature] Anon22 discovered Internet porn when he was just 12 years old. For around 10 years, Anon22 has enjoyed pornography using his computer once or twice a day, a compulsion that he claims ruined his social... Read More . He also believes that easy access to porn fuels crimes against women and children. He told HuffPo that he has a list of another 5,000-6,000 sites that he hopes will be blocked.

However, the lawyer does not want a blanket ban on anything scandalous. He wants the Supreme Court to distinguish between “sexually explicit, violent porn” and “erotica”, and believes the latter should not be blocked.

“I have a problem with porn that exploits children as well as porn that children can access,” he said. “If a child can access some porn that is also a crime.”

It’s a valid concern for some parents, which is why there are kid-safe websites for videos 10 Video Websites for Kids That Are Safe and Fun 10 Video Websites for Kids That Are Safe and Fun Read More and other content.

What Do You Think About All This?

This isn’t India’s first attempt at banning pornography, and it probably won’t be the last. What is interesting is that the government of a large democracy believes it needs to block pornography, and more importantly, thinks it can be achieved How To Bypass Internet Censorship How To Bypass Internet Censorship This article examines some of the most common methods used to filter content as well as emerging trends. Read More . Mr. Gautam Trivedi on Twitter perfectly summed up my opinion, but I’d love to hear yours:

Image credit: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock.com

  1. Kevin Liske
    August 6, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Wow, that was quick. This article became outdated history as of yesterday when the ban was rescinded.

  2. likefun butnot
    August 6, 2015 at 2:31 am

    How does India's ban in particular deal with mainstream sites that just happen to have fantastic quantities of porn? What's the point of the ban if anyone can visit Tumblr or Reddit/Imgur and find even greater sleaze than anything anyone bothered to ban?

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Look, your use of logical arguments is not welcome here, all right? This is India.

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