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Govt Caters To Corporate Interests, Doesn’t Want To Ban Porn: SC Petitioner

Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based lawyer, who had filed public interest litigation in Supreme Court in 2013 regarding the impact of pornography on children, speaks to Outlook on why porn has not been banned in India yet.

Govt Caters To Corporate Interests, Doesn’t Want To Ban Porn: SC Petitioner
Why government doesn't ban porn | Image for representation | PTI/File Photo
Govt Caters To Corporate Interests, Doesn’t Want To Ban Porn: SC Petitioner
outlookindia.com
2021-08-11T19:15:20+05:30

Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based lawyer, who had filed public interest litigation in Supreme Court in 2013 and for the first time raised the adverse impact of pornography on children, is a disappointed man today.

Despite his petition and the apex court direction to the government to deal with pornography seriously, nothing has changed today. On the contrary, he feels that porn content, especially in a digital form, is more frequently available than ever and only the government is to blame for this.

In an interview with Outlook, Vaswani says that if the government wants to ban porn sites in India, it will take less than half an hour to do so but it is not doing it deliberately to serve the interest of corporate houses who are into internet and data services.

Excerpts:

Do you think your petition for imposing a ban on all forms of porn content and amendment in legal provisions to deal with pornography has achieved the desired outcome?

When I had filed the petition in 2013, a lot of social activists and women’s organisations had congratulated me for raising a pertinent question and I was very hopeful that my initiatives will help cleanse the visual and print medium from obscenity and pornography.  

But unfortunately what I have experienced is that in the past seven years instead of any decrease, pornography has been on the rise. You just google any porn key world and millions of websites with obscene videos, graphics and content will open up.

This is because there is no restriction on these websites. While hearing my petition, judges realised that it was a serious issue and asked the government to present a concrete plan to ban all these websites. On every hearing, the government’s only reply was that they are working in the direction to ban the sites.

After a lot of pressure from the court order, they had banned some sites as well but that was too small a step to deal with a problem of such a high magnitude.

So what exactly was your plea in the Supreme Court?

There are multiple issues that I have raised in my petition. Indian laws haven’t defined pornography. Besides the law permits watching and keeping adult porn content but shooting, uploading or forwarding it to someone is illegal. That’s the most unusual part of the law.

Interestingly, the Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) completely bans even watching and preserving child porn content in any form but it doesn’t address what to do to stop children from watching porn digital content.

So the government can either ban all URLs or put some sort of filter so that they cannot have access to it. Porn films have a very harmful impact on the mind of kids and a lot of adolescents crimes can be attributed to the easy availability of porn content. It drives them to commit crimes like rape and murder.

But why do you feel that the government is deliberately not banning porn websites? What benefits does the government get out of it?

I have raised this issue in my petition. You cannot imagine the income from the internet and mobile users that data service providing companies earn. More porn content means more use of internet data. Their profit runs into billions of rupees every day as there is no specific internet legislation or special anti-porn legislation available in India. It is clear cut connivance, conspiracy and malafide intentions of the government. The government is only catering to the interest of corporates.

Since your petition is still pending in the Supreme Court for a final decision, what’s your next course of action?

I might move a contempt petition and request the court to hold the government officers responsible for allowing porn sites to thrive and make money. I will request the court to take stern action against such officials and I believe this will shake the government out of slumber.

We desperately need a law with clarity on the definition of obscenity and pornography. We still have an over 100-year-old definition of obscenity which is so vague and pointless.  

Today, OTT platforms have made porn content more accessible to everyone and it is going to have a disastrous impact on our children. Nobody is thinking about that. 

Do you also think that due to online education in the Covid times, kids are on the digital medium most of the time and this makes them vulnerable to get obscene content more easily than ever?

Yes, today, the need to keep kids away from objectionable and violent digital content is much more than ever because they are most of the time on laptops on phones for online education.

One wrong keyword even by mistake can play havoc on their innocent mind. I am sorry to say that we are offering porn content on a platter to them by not putting a filter on their surfing bevaviour.  The government must realise it before it gets too late. 

What’s your take on the current controversy in which Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty’s husband has been alleged to be involved in making porn films?

So far as I have learned from newspaper reports that Kundra’s plan was to launch porn stuff in a Virtual Reality (VR) mode and in the 3-dimensional version of the application. I am glad that the police have been able to crack it and he has been arrested.

This was a horrible business idea and had it been launched this would have been devastating effects on our children. People like Kundra are big sharks in the porn business. Such people should deserve the strictest possible punishment.  

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