New Delhi: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on Monday told the Supreme Court that it is practically and technically impossible for them to block pornographic sites without orders from court and government and they cannot be made liable for the objectionable contents of the sites.
In its reply to a PIL requesting the apex court to pass an order to block websites with pornographic content in the country, the ISPs association submitted that there is need to define the term pornography as its boundaries are 'amorphous'.
"It is neither legally nor technically nor practically possible for ISPs on their own to block pornographic sites unless a direction is received from a court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with law or from DoT (Department of Telecommunication)," it said, adding, "It is impossible for them to carry out pro-active monitoring of the content in absence of any mandate by the DoT."
"There is no unanimously accepted definition of pornography and the boundaries of the same are amorphous. Would medical or AIDS awareness websites be pornography? Would photographs of Khajuraho be so termed? One man's pornography is another man's high art," the association said.
It said that service providers are obligated to block only those contents which are deemed objectionable to government and it is impossible for them to block pornographic sites without court or DoT directions.
"ISPs neither create content of any sort nor do they own, promote, modify or edit it. They are merely authorised service providers who provide their customers access to the Internet. They are merely conduits and cannot be made liable for the contents," it said.
"Such blocking would tantamount to pre-censorship of contents without authority of law and could unfairly limit the fundamental rights of the customers and may expose them to liability under civil laws," the response said.
Meanwhile, a bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan granted three weeks more time to DoT to file response as to how to block websites with pornographic content in the country, particularly those featuring child pornography.
The Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court that it was difficult to block international porn sites in the country and sought time to consult various ministries in order to find a solution.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani who pleaded that although watching obscene videos was not an offence, pornographic sites should be banned as they were one of the major causes behind crimes against women.
The petition says that the absence of Internet laws encourages people to watch porn videos and over 20 crore porn videos or clippings are freely available in the market, which have been directly downloaded from the Internet or copied from 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 and also poses threats to public order in India.
"Most offences committed against women/girls/children are fueled by pornography. The worrying issue is that the severity and gravity of such images is increasing. It is a matter of serious concern that prepubescent children are being raped," the petition added.
"Offenders' minds are mostly fueled by pornography as the sexual offender or rapist achieves gratification not from sexual release alone but also from the thrill of domination, control and power," the petition said.
"At best, IPC only recognises the offences of obscenity, kidnapping, abduction and other related offences which are not sufficient to tackle the issue of pornography and such videos," it said, adding that the watching and sharing of obscene videos should be made non-bailable and cognisable offences....